June 18, 2021

LEMON CAKE

 


The real name for this cake should be "Dom's mum's lemon cake".



It is one of the easiest lemon cakes to make and the recipe comes from Dominic at Bellau Kitchen.  It's his mum's recipe and he recently (two months ago already!) wrote about it as you can see here.


Once I was reminded of it I couldn't wait to make it again myself - I first made it years ago and wrote about it here.  It's a delicious cake with a lovely texture, so quick to rustle up but doesn't hang around - it's very moreish (as my mum used to say).  Highly recommended.


 You may well wonder why there is a picture here of our cat Daisy having forty winks!

Well, at long last we will soon be on our way to France!  It's been a trial getting organised as you might like to read here and there is still much to do.  The blog will be going to sleep for a while and hopefully my next post will be from our house in France!

Night, night!

June 4, 2021

FILET MIGNON DE PORC

Chez Grand Ma.

We have eaten at this restaurant in the village where we live in France many, many times over the years. My favourite dish on the menu is "filet mignons de porc" and it's delicious.  The pork is tender and succulent and usually served with sauté potatoes (pan fried cubes of herby potatoes), a sprig of roasted cherry tomatoes and a small portion of some kind of other veg. 

In winter we eat inside the cosy restaurant and in summer outdoors in its beautiful courtyard. There is a "menu du jour" at lunchtime and two price bands of set menus in the evening.  This is where we ate when we celebrated getting the keys to our little house in the village on a freezing cold evening in November 2007 and the filet mignon de porc is what we both had.  For me, the great thing about this little restaurant is that you can always get a nice meal all year round, regardless of the month or the weather. On a cold and dark Tuesday evening in February, when there are no tourists and the village is deserted, the restaurant's lights on Grande Rue will be drawing you in for dinner.



So, when I spotted a pork fillet on the supermarket shelf the other day, my heart skipped a beat. It's hard to explain to anyone how much I miss being in France at this time of year and as I placed the pork in my basket I was transported back in time.  It’s funny how food can bring back memories with a jolt and launch you back into a previous time.  

Moules et frites for lunch in the courtyard on a summer's day, or the local trio performing a blues session to enthusiastic diners on a warm evening, the swifts and swallows performing their aerobatics to add to the entertainment, or celebrating a birthday on a chilly December night, the clinking of the glasses adding to the merriment. 

Nick recreated the dish at home and we had ours with a small gratin of potatoes (I confess a purchase from the freezer cabinet and baked in the oven at the same time as the pork) and the usual medley of veg. It was not quite the same as Henri the chef's version but close enough. We sipped a nice red wine with it and reminisced, hoping that we'll be able to return to our house in France this summer.

Ingredients 

1 400g pork fillet
1 large shallot, chopped
half a pack of chestnut mushrooms, thickly sliced
some white wine
1-2 tblsp full fat crème fraîche

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.

Heat a little olive oil and a knob of butter in a frying pan and brown the pork on all sides.  Cutting the fillet in half will help to fit it in the pan and with handling.  Transfer to a small roasting dish, add a splash of wine and roast for about 15-20 minutes depending on how well you like it to be cooked.

While the meat is in the oven, add the shallot and mushrooms to the frying pan with a little more oil if necessary and cook gently until soft but not browned.  Add a little wine and season with salt and pepper.  Then add the crème fraîche and stir in, adding a little more to thicken it as you like.

Remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for five minutes.  Slice into thick medallions and serve with the sauce poured over.

Serves 2.

June 3, 2021

RHUBARB AND STRAWBERRY CRUMBLE CAKE

 

I used the same recipe for this cake as for the summer fruit streusal cake which I first made last year.  It's one of those endlessly adaptable recipes that never fails to please and comes from the excellent little book "The Weekend Cookbook" by Catherine Hill.

This time I used a few slim stalks of rhubarb from the garden, choosing the reddest ones in preference to the green, and a handful of strawberries.  The golden caster sugar gives it a slightly caramel flavour and the demerara sugar topping a bit of crunch.  I did wonder about adding a little vanilla extract but it didn't need it.  Rhubarb and strawberries go well together and it was a delicious cake with a nice texture.

The crunch was diminished after a couple of days as I stored the cake in the fridge because of the fresh fruit, but it was still good to eat.  It really is a lovely cake to have either with a cup of tea, a glass of chilled rosé or served warm with custard for dessert.  Highly recommended.



However, I dropped a bit of a clanger with the cake tin, having decided to use a 20cm square tin instead of a round one for a change.  My brain was obviously temporarily disengaged and when the cake came out of the oven I realised that turning it out was going to be a problem.  I had lined the bottom with baking paper but it was a solid tin, not loose bottomed and it suddenly occurred to me that having to tip it upside down to turn it out might mean that I would lose some of the crumble topping.  Rats !!
Luckily, the cake had risen more or less to the top of the tin so once it had cooled for about ten minutes (to make sure it had set and was not too fragile for some athletics) I put a large chopping board on the top, gripped them together firmly, tipped it upside down and removed the tin and the baking paper.  I now had the cake upside down on the board so pressed an oblong cooling rack onto the bottom of it.  With no mean feat of dexterity I gripped the sides of the board and rack with both hands and turned it back the right way up.  It worked and I lost only a few crumbs of the topping.  
*The moral of the story is: either use a loose bottomed tin of some kind, OR, put long strips of foil or paper in the tin so you can lift it out when cooked without inverting it!
In any case, I think it's one of those cakes that cuts more easily into squares than triangles and I would do the same again.....

Ingredients
For the topping
 
50g cold butter, cubed
75g plain flour
50g demerara sugar
50g flaked almonds
 
For the cake
 
125g cold butter, cubed
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g golden caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 tblsp milk (approx.)
300g of fruit, a mixture of rhubarb and strawberries
 
Method
 
First make the streusel topping by putting the butter and flour into the bowl of a food processor.  Blitz until the stage of large breadcrumbs with a few lumpy bits (so not too fine).  Tip the mixture into a small bowl, add the sugar and flaked almonds and stir to mix together.  Set aside.
(You can of course do the rubbing in part by hand.)
 
Butter and base line a 20cm loose bottomed square cake tin*.  Preheat the oven to 170C / 150 fan / gas mk 4.
 
Without washing the food processor bowl (or the mixing bowl if rubbing in by hand), make the cake mixture.  Put the flour and baking powder in and blitz (or stir) for a couple of seconds to mix.  Add the butter and process until the fine breadcrumbs stage.  Then add the sugar, eggs and 2 tblsp of the milk.  Process  until smooth and add a little more milk if necessary to get a dropping consistency.
 
Transfer the mixture to the tin and level the top.  Chop or cut in half any larger strawberries, chop the rhubarb into 1cm dice and arrange on top of the cake mixture.  Sprinkle the streusel mixture on top of that.
 
Bake for 35-40 minutes (mine took 55 minutes) until done and the cake passes the skewer test.
 
Leave in the tin to cool for 15 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
 
Cuts into 9-12 slices.
* See notes in text!

May 3, 2021

PEA AND HAM SOUP

 

Following on from the previous post about soup weather, another soup that I made recently is pea and ham soup.

One of my dad's favourite things to eat is gammon.  If we were to take him for a pub lunch he would mostly have gammon with egg and chips.  At home we usually have a small smoked gammon joint that you simply bake in the oven, roasted in an old fashioned enamel roaster just like Mum used to use for the Sunday roast every week.  (I spotted one of them in a local charity shop in immaculate condition for 75p a while ago and it's been in regular use ever since.)

When the weather turned chilly again we reverted to comfort food and had cauliflower cheese and mash with our gammon joint.  There is a generous amount of meat on these joints and the leftovers can be used in a multitude of ways  - not least of which sliced, in a excellent ham, cheese and pickle sandwich.  The other thing it's good for is soup.  

I cut the gammon into thick slices then small dice.  Most went into the pot and I reserved a few for garnish when the soup was cooked.  The quantity of meat does not need to be precise and you can use more or less any kind of cooked ham.

It was delicious!

Ingredients

About a third (250g) of a small gammon joint, cooked, or a couple of slices of thick ham

350g frozen peas

1 medium potato

1 medium onion

1 vegetable stock pot

Method

Peel and chop the onion and potato. Chop or cut the gammon or ham into small dice.

Tip the peas into the machine, then the chopped potato and onion.  Reserve a few bits of meat for garnish if you like, otherwise add all of it to the machine with the stock pot.

Cover with water to the lower line. Season with pepper (ham is quite salty enough) and cook on smooth.

Add a swirl of cream or crème fraîche and a sprinkle of chopped parsley before scattering the reserved chopped ham on top. Otherwise just dig straight in!

Serves 4 generously.

April 30, 2021

SOUP WEATHER AGAIN - CAULIFLOWER CHEESE SOUP



In the early part of April the weather was lovely and warm for several days.  Lulled into false sense of security we got the bbq out and even had to use the umbrella (the sunshade kind) for a couple of afternoons.  I donned t-shirts and cropped linen trousers, stocked the fridge with Italian rosé wine and looked forward to the kind of spring we had last year during the early part of the lockdown.

Then over one weekend winter returned.  Cold winds, hail and dull, grey skies.  Out came the soup maker again!


Having found that some soups can turn out slightly bland, I've been looking for ways of adding flavour and spotted this product on the supermarket shelves amongst the stock pots and cubes.  I decided to give it a try.  I expect it's very similar to the Maggi seasoning that you get in France. 

This soup is one that was doing the rounds of the soup maker forums and I was dying to have a go.  It uses frozen cauliflower cheese.  I never knew that such a thing existed!  The finished soup was very much like drinking liquid cauliflower cheese, which is hardly surprising!  Delicious!

I put the cauliflower straight from the freezer into the machine and used hot water, although some recipes said just use cold water as normal.  Most said that either way there was no need to defrost the cauliflower.

Ingredients

1 680g bag frozen cauliflower cheese (mine came from Tesco at £2 a bag)

1 small onion

1 small potato

1 full tsp Knorr liquid seasoning

Method

Peel and chop the onion and potato and add to the machine.  Tip the bag of cauliflower on top.  Season with salt and pepper (I added my pepper afterwards).  Add the liquid seasoning, fill to the top line with hot water and cook on smooth.

Serves 4 generously.

April 14, 2021

DATE AND APPLE CAKE

My blog friend Angela mentioned recently that she had made some date and apple galettes for dessert.  That sounded like a heavenly combination to me and one that would probably be good in a cake.


I looked for recipes on the internet but nothing really appealed so I decided to adapt one I've used before.


I used Mary Berry's recipe for her "American apple and apricot cake" which I wrote about here.  The recipe appears in her "Baking Bible" and "100 cakes and bakes".  Instead of the apricots, almond extract and normal caster sugar I used chopped dates, vanilla extract and golden caster sugar, for a more mellow flavour to fit with the dates.  It was an adaptation that really worked.


It's a lovely, moist cake and less like a full-on fruit cake than many of the internet recipes I found.  Date and apple are truly a lovely combination. Great to go with a cup of tea in the afternoon or, of course, served warm for dessert.  Many thanks to Angela for giving me the idea.

Ingredients

250g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

225g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

½ tsp vanilla extract

150g butter, melted

225g cooking apples, peeled (I used 1 large Bramley)

100g chopped dates

a splash of milk if needed

25g flaked almonds (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 160° C / 140° fan / gas mk 3.  Butter and line the base of a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Put all the ingredients except for the fruit, milk and almonds into a large bowl, mix well to combine then beat for one minute until smooth.  Slice the apples straight into the bowl, add the dates and stir in to combine evenly,  Add the milk if the mixture seems overly stiff.  (Mine did.)

Spoon into the tin and level the top.  Tap on the worktop a few times to settle the mixture and release any air bubbles.  Sprinkle over the flaked almonds if you are using them.

Bake for 1 - 1½ hours until done.  Check after 1 hour but beware of the cake sinking if you open the oven door too soon (mine did and was done in 1¼ hours).  Cool in the tin for a few minutes before releasing the cake carefully.  Run a knife around the edge of the cake before releasing the clip so that the cake won't split.

Cool on a rack and serve cold or slightly warm.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

April 10, 2021

CELERIAC AND MUSHROOM SOUP


 Never judge a book by its cover or a soup by its colour!

This rather unappealing looking grey bowlful turned out to be a really delicious soup!

It was inspired by a late afternoon trip to our local Tesco.  Actually we set off to go to Waitrose, now that we're allowed to go a little further than local.  Unfortunately, as the Waitrose stores at Ashbourne and Leek have been closed for good, our nearest remaining are all quite a distance away at either Buxton, Sheffield or Newark.  Sheffield is the nearest of those but the journey there is nowhere near as pretty as to the other two.  A trip to the supermarket definitely qualifies as a run out!

We opted for Newark but when we got there found a long line of hapless shoppers queuing up outside with their trolleys.  So we took an executive decision to turn around and come home - but via Tesco because we needed some shopping!  We have suspended our "click and collect" shopping activity in favour of actual shopping for a while, just to see how we get on.  The newfound confidence since having our first vaccination dose.

There were a lot of veg in the reduced bin and I swooped on a huge pack of mushrooms and one of baby leeks.  I already had an unused bulb (is that the right word) of celeriac in the fridge so a recipe began to formulate in my mind.  

One thing I have learned about the soup maker is that you need strong flavours and some of the recipes I normally use seem to produce quite a bland soup.  I have needed a bit more seasoning or herbs added to pep them up and have resorted to using more stock cubes/powder/pots, or, frying some of the ingredients before they go in.  That's no great hardship because if I chop the leeks or onions and put them in the frying pan with some oil to cook while I chop the other ingredients, it takes no longer to prepare than usual and the whole thing is still ready in half an hour or so.  (As it happened I didn't fry the leeks for this one and it was yummy.)

Ingredients

a large chunk of celeriac

a pack of baby leeks (or one large leek)

four very large mushrooms

1 medium potato

1 Tesco garlic and thyme stock pot

1 tablespoon of olive oil

a generous splash of dry sherry

Method

Prepare the veg by washing, peeling and chopping into cubes or slicing, as appropriate.  Prepare enough to fill the soup maker to somewhere between the min and max lines.

Add the stock pot, olive oil and water up to almost the max line and cook on "smooth".

When cooked, stir in the sherry and salt & pepper to taste.

Makes four good servings.

April 6, 2021

GINGER AND COCONUT TARTS

 

This is another variation of one of my favourite Be-Ro book recipes.


They are called in the book "rich coconut tartlets" and are essentially jam tarts with a coconut topping.  My mum used to make them by the dozen most weekends.  The last time I wrote about them I had made a version using quince jelly which you can see here.  In that post I gave a link to the original recipe on the Be-Ro website but, like so many links, it has disappeared!  Fortunately I had given my version of the recipe anyway.

It's so annoying to get all excited about baking something you've seen in a blog, only to find that when you look up the link all you get is "Error 404"!  


Comparing these to the quince ones it looks like there is much more topping.  That's probably down to using a large egg instead of a medium one.  The large free range eggs we now get are huge!!

I love the knobbly, rustic and home made look!

For these tarts I used Sainsbury's ginger preserve, a favourite jam that I like to have on toast.  I've also used the same jam to fill my pear and ginger upside down cake which you can see here.  (Robertson's make a ginger marmalade which would work nicely too.)  I finished each tart with a bit of crystallised ginger, popped on top before baking. 


This week's weather.


They are perfect for the current weather.  As I write this hail is falling and covering the ground like snow.  This day last week we were basking in 20°C and lighting the barbecue, thinking that this lockdown business is not so bad.  Such is the nature of April weather in Derbyshire, especially during the Easter school holidays!   April showers, I suppose!

Last week's weather - prior to the schools breaking up for Easter!!

Ingredients

100g shortcrust pastry - home made using 100g flour or shop bought

a few teaspoons of ginger jam or marmalade

50g soft margarine

50g caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

50g dessicated coconut

12 pieces of crystallised ginger (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease a 12 hole patty tin.

Roll out the pastry and cut twelve 3" (7.5cm) circles using a fluted pastry cutter.  Gently press one circle into each hole and put about ½ tsp jam in the centre of each one.  (This doesn't sound much but any more will cause the jam to leak out and boil over when cooked.)

In a small bowl, beat together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and the coconut.

Plop about 1 tsp of the coconut mixture on top of the jam in each tart, teeming and ladling until it's all used up and shared out evenly, and push the mixture to the edges of each one to seal in the jam.

Drop a piece of crystallised ginger into the centre of each one.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the coconut mixture is risen and golden.  Cool before serving as the jam will be very hot.

Makes 12 tarts.

March 23, 2021

APPLE BERRY PIE



This pie came about for three reasons, all to do with internet shopping.

We usually have a few berries on our morning flakes or porridge but lately they have not been so good.  Because I have not been into the supermarkets as much and been relying on our internet ordering, items that we would not normally buy have sneaked themselves in under the radar.  So we ended up with raspberries from Morocco and blueberries from Chile.  Both were sour and otherwise lacking in much flavour.  If I had been standing in front of them myself I would not have picked them from the display.

The second reason for making this particular pie was the HUGE Bramley apples.  Only a couple of weeks ago we ordered three Bramleys for our weekly crumble and they were tiny.  This time they were enormous. 


I have found in the past that the imported, out of season fruit, that we should resist buying but can't, is disappointing in flavour until you cook it.  Cooking brings out the flavour and all berries go well with apples in a pudding.  

I also had part of a pack of ready made, ready rolled, shortcrust pastry in the fridge, the third "internet shopping" reason for this pie.  I've found the Tesco one to be my favourite but didn't realise it came in two pack sizes, one being bigger than the other.  Hence about a third of a pack lurking on the top shelf of the fridge in need of using up.

So, I used my quick plum pie recipe to rustle up this apple berry pie.  You can see that recipe here.

I used one of the enormous Bramleys and cooked the slices to soften them before stirring in the unused berries.  A regular two-egg all-in-one sponge topped the fruit and the finished pud was delicious.

I really should make this as an intended pudding, not just one that uses up stuff that needs using up!

The sponge itself would be lovely flavoured with orange or lemon zest, or maybe a Black Forest version, using a chocolate sponge and my tin of cherry pie filling (another rogue internet purchase) would be nice.  As would a pear and almond version using almond essence in the sponge.  I could even ice it with a water icing.   Hmmm....maybe those large packs of pastry could be useful after all.  Or I could, of course, make my own!

Ingredients

1 large or 2 small cooking apples

a handful of blueberries and raspberries

2 tblsp granulated sugar

a pack of ready made, ready rolled shortcrust pastry (brought to room temperature)

4ozs self raising flour

4 ozs caster sugar

4 ozs soft margarine (I used Stork)

2 eggs

(a splash of milk if needed)

Method

Peel and slice the apple into a small saucepan.  Add a splash of water and heat gently until the slices are softened, not quite completely mushy.  Remove from the heat, stir in the berries and granulated sugar and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan.  Grease a 20cm round flan dish or deep pie dish.  Line the dish with the pastry, patching as needed, trim and crimp the edges.

To make the sponge topping, put all the ingredients into a bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until nice and smooth.  Add the milk to loosen it if it's too stiff.

Tip the fruit into the pie dish and spread out evenly with a spoon.  Spoon the sponge mixture on top and level it, making sure there are no gaps.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the sponge is golden brown and cooked.  

Serve warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar if you like, with cream, ice cream or custard.

Cuts into 8 slices.

March 18, 2021

EGG AND CRESS SANDWICHES


Egg and cress sandwiches on brown bread.

I hadn't had a home made egg sandwich for years until we attended one of the get-togethers in France organised by our friend and fellow blogger Susan.  She had formed an association called Claise Connexion where residents of many nationalities (mostly English and French) from the area around the Claise valley meet up socially every so often.  Everyone is invited to bring either a plate of finger food or something to drink.  You can read about one of the events if you go here.

At these events I have eaten some wonderful home made delicacies, French and English, also Dutch, Australian and American.  For the one I last attended I took a pile of my home made mini sausage rolls which were very popular.  To see the recipe for them go here.  Our friends Tim and Pauline turned up with a big tray of egg and cress sandwiches.  Their hens were laying well and they had lots of gorgeous free range eggs so they rustled up the delicious sandwiches, using French sliced brown bread.  They went down a storm and disappeared fast.  I had completely forgotten how yummy a plain old egg sandwich can be!

Since then I have been periodically buying cartons of egg mayo for sandwiches but they do vary in quality depending on where you buy them.  With a zoom birthday tea party coming up and a glut of eggs in the house I decided to make some myself.  How hard can it be?


To make egg mayo you need hard boiled eggs.  I always prick mine with an egg punch.


I once read somewhere that the eggs are less likely to crack and leak the white into the boiling water if you have them at room temperature and prick the shell at the rounded end to release the air.  This little egg punch produces a nice little pinhole in the egg without risk of breaking it.  You turn it to the "punch" position, push the egg firmly onto the middle and the spring mechanism pushes the disc down leaving the spike sticking up to pierce the egg.  In the locked position the spring is fixed to avoid accidents where you might accidentally prick your finger.  Of course, if you forget to unlock the punch you just smash the egg and yes, I have done that a time or two!  But I have had no cracked boiled eggs where most of the white ends up floating around in the water.
 



Another essential ingredient of egg mayo is obviously the mayo.  I also like a bit of mustard in mine and this brings me to the difference between French and English mayo.  

I always thought that once I'd retired I'd have the time to make my own mayonnaise but the reality is that it's still way down my list of priorities!  So we buy it from the supermarket and have found a difference between the French and English stuff.  Both list "mustard seeds" in the ingredients but, having performed a taste test, I can report that the mustard flavour is much more subtle in the English version and quite noticeable in the French one.  So, if you make your egg mayo with French mayo you may not need to add any mustard at all.




So there we have it, a dish of the most yummy home made egg mayo and the makings of a delicious egg and cress sandwich.

Ingredients

2 large or 3 medium eggs, preferably free range, at room temperature
2 dessert spoons of mayonnaise
½ - 1 tsp Dijon mustard to taste
salt and white pepper
cress, rocket or lamb's lettuce, or other herbs of your choice 
your favourite sliced bread, buttered with your favourite spread

Method

Prick the eggs at the round end and drop gently into boiling water.  Boil for 10 minutes.  As soon as the time is up, drain them and refill the saucepan with cold water to cool the eggs.

When the eggs are more or less cold, shell them and place in a small bowl.  Using either a knife or a fork, chop or mash them until there are very few large lumps of white left.

Add one spoonful of the mayonnaise and mix well.  Add enough extra mayo to get the consistency that you like.  

Add the mustard ½ tsp at a time, mix well and taste.  Season with salt and pepper and taste again.  Spread it as thickly as you like on your bread, season with extra black pepper if you like and add some greenery, something peppery if that's what you like.

Makes enough for three rounds (six slices) of sandwiches.  Keeps for a couple of days in the fridge.

March 14, 2021

BANANA CAKE BY JAMES MARTIN

 

This is another of those recipes I've had my eye on for a while.

Yes, it's another banana cake recipe.  The banana loaf seems to have become something of a cliché for lockdown baking (allegedly) but this one is a bit different.  


Firstly, it is actually a cake and not a loaf, i.e. it's round, not an oblong shape.


Secondly, it contains a lot of bananas and they are blended into a purée before adding to the mixture, not mashed.

I wasn't sure how much difference this would make to the finished cake compared to other banana cakes and the answer was - not very much!  It did have a lovely texture with that unique slight boingyness that banana cakes always seem to have.

In order to make it I had to wait until I had the right number of very ripe bananas in the house and I actually went out and bought (well, put some on my click and collect order) some pecan nuts just for this cake.  Usually I substitute walnuts for pecans in cakes, mainly because we always have a plenty of windfall walnuts brought back from France.  Luckily I had some maple syrup in stock as well as some cream.


A friend gave me a tip about this stuff a few years ago.  It's long life "double cream" and whips up really well for cakes and desserts.  I struggle with getting a good whip using French cream so we usually take some of this to France with us.  It's long life, easy to pack and store, tastes good, whips up well and the unused cream keeps for several days in the fridge once opened.  I now keep a couple of packs in stock all the time which means there is always cream available when I fancy using it.  However, with Brexit now a grim reality, I expect that taking some to France is a thing of the past because it's dairy.




As I was making the cake it occurred to me that there was going to be an awful lot of mixture.  I considered using one of my Bundt tins instead of the 9" round tin specified in the recipe but then remembered my rash "lockdown shopping" bargain of last year.  A mini Bundt tin from Lakeland.  It's a very pretty tin and I used some of the mixture for that.  It produces very pretty little buns!   Mind you, the tin is the devil itself to fill with mixture.  It was very fiddly to get it evenly distributed in its little holes just with a spoon and it looks like my next "lockdown shopping" purchase, if I'm ever going to use the tin again, will have to be a plain, fat piping nozzle!

As it turned out, the cake didn't rise by a huge amount so putting all of the mixture in the tin would have been fine.  On the other hand, it was nice to have a few little buns as well!


It was a delicious cake.

I'm glad I went to the trouble of buying the pecans because the whole thing was just right.  It would not have been quite the same with walnuts, much as I love them, pecans do have a more mellow, slightly caramel flavour that suited the maple syrup and the cream in the icing.  It's a great cake, only what you would expect from the dishy James Martin!

I didn't deviate from the recipe (apart from the buns) and you can see it on the BBC Food website if you look here.  (I also completely forgot to scatter pecan nuts over the top of the cake because on the website this instruction is missing from the recipe although it's quite clear in the picture - oops!)

Ingredients
For the cake

200g softened butter (I used Sainsbury's Buttersoft)
400g plain flour
4 ripe bananas, peeled
75ml maple syrup
25-50ml milk
150g caster sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
75g chopped pecan nuts

For the glaze

125ml maple syrup
200ml double cream
25g chopped pecan nuts (optional)

Method

Grease and line the base of a 23cm, 9" round springform tin with baking paper.  Set the oven to 170°C / 150° fan / gas mk3.

Put the peeled bananas into a food processor and blend until roughly chopped.  Add the maple syrup and blend again, adding enough of the milk to make a smooth paste.

In a large bowl or food mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of the flour.

Add all the other cake ingredients and fold together until well combined.  Spoon the mixture into the tin, level the top and tap on the worktop a few times to settle the mixture and dispel any air bubbles.  

Bake for 45-60 minutes until done (mine was done in 45 minutes).  Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, put the cream and maple syrup into a small saucepan and bring to the boil.  Boil gently for 3-5 minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly then set aside to cool.

When the cake and the glaze are cool, drizzle the glaze artistically over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.  Scatter over the chopped pecans.  Allow the glaze to set for 10 minutes before serving.

Cuts into 8-10 good slices.

March 4, 2021

THE BE-RO GINGERBREAD CAKE - the taste of my childhood

 

Nick is not really much of a cake person.  Although for someone who claims not to like cake very much he has made some pretty special cakes himself.  He often tackles the recipes I would shy away from because they're too fiddly  - he just gets the ingredients weighed out and gets on with it, head down and completely focused. 


 However, of all the cakes in the world, his absolute favourite is a ginger cake, and he waxes lyrical about the Be-Ro book ginger cake.




I got out my copy of the Be-Ro book and as I weighed out the ingredients memories of past ginger cakes came to mind.  My mum and my grandma used to make this same cake, using the Be-Ro book recipe, it was a family favourite.  It was made in a small oblong meat roasting tin.  We didn't possess a huge collection of different tins in those days.  There was a pair of sponge tins, a bun tin for fairy cakes, maids of honour and mince pies, a baking tray and a deep cake tin for the Christmas cake.  It was very much a case of make do with what we had and in fact a lot of old fashioned recipes didn't specify the size of tin at all.

This recipe uses the simplest of ingredients that would have been standard fare in everyone's pantry in the 1950's and 60's.  No fancy flours or the kinds of ginger that feature so often in modern recipes.  I doubt my mum would have ever even seen or heard of fresh ginger.  Ginger came dried in a jar.  (In fact I'm not sure that in the very early days if it didn't come in a tin.)



I hadn't made one of these for donkey's years.  Yet it's the best ginger cake you could wish for.  Just look at that sticky, glossy top and the dense, even crumb.  It has a spicy treacliness that's absolutely divine.  The taste of my childhood and just as way back then, the kitchen smelled wonderful all afternoon.

Ingredients

225g plain flour
a pinch of salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g soft dark brown sugar
100g margarine
175g black treacle
50g golden syrup
150ml milk
2 med eggs, beaten
50g sultanas (optional, I omitted them)

Method

First, measure your margarine, treacle and golden syrup directly into a small saucepan.  Heat gently until the margarine has melted, stirring all the time.  Remove from the heat, stir in the milk and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 150°C / 130° fan / gas mk 2.  Grease and line the bottom of an 18cm square or 20cm round tin.

Sift the flour, salt, spices and bicarb into a bowl.  Stir in the sugar and mix well to combine.  Add the beaten eggs and mix well.  Stir in the cooled treacle mixture.  Add the sultanas if using and stir again.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 1 - 1¼ hours.  Mine was done in 1 hour so check early on.

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

Cuts into around 16 slices.

February 26, 2021

BLUEBERRY AND LEMON CAKE

 

Internet shopping for groceries is a trial.  Some websites are easier to navigate than others but we usually get some surprises!  A recent one was an extra punnet of blueberries that we weren't expecting.


As well as the erroneous ordering there is also the phenomenon of strange substitutions.  Early in the lockdown last year I ordered a bag of caster sugar and was given this stuff instead.  It's granulated sugar with some sweetener added.  I was unsure about baking with it as most recipes specify caster sugar because dissolves more easily in baking, but have been using it to sweeten fruit in pies and crumbles.

When I was looking for a cake recipe using blueberries I turned up this one on the Baking Mad website and was intrigued that it used Half Spoon as the sugar ingredient.  I decided to give it a go, if only to use up some of the sugar!



It was dead easy to make, nothing complicated, and although I used my recently acquired Kenwood KMix, a bowl, a wooden spoon and a bit of elbow grease would be just as good.  It was quick to bake too.


The cake was lovely (although I was slightly miffed that most of the blueberries sank to the bottom).  I marked out the cream cheese topping in a pattern that would make the cutting of regular slices easy whether in oblongs, squares or triangles.  I was very pleased with it.



I did however make a mistake in placing the blueberries for decoration.




Something else I was very pleased with is this food cover.  I had seen one in use at cake club and eventually spotted them for sale on Amazon (the dreaded).  It comes in a set of three different sizes and will cover anything more effectively than the square tent shaped ones I normally use, which are often plenty wide enough but not tall enough to cover a cake on a cake stand.  This one easily fitted over the cake on its stand, keeping it safe from the attention of insects and pets.  Highly recommended.

Ingredients

For the cake

300g self raising flour (or ⅔ SR and ⅓ sponge flour)

1½ tsp baking powder

300g soft margarine (I used Stork)

125g Half Spoon sugar alternative*

5 medium eggs

zest and juice of 1 lemon

100g blueberries

a splash of milk if needed

For the topping

180g cream cheese

25g softened butter

2 heaped tblsp icing sugar

A handful of blueberries

Method

Grease and line the base of a 22 or 23 cm square tin.  Preheat the oven to 190°C / 170° fan / gas mk 5.  

Put all the cake ingredients except for the blueberries into a large bowl and beat well until combined. Beat in a splash (about a tablespoon) of milk if the mixture seems quite stiff (mine was but I now wonder if adding the milk is why the blueberries sank.  I might omit it and go with a stiffer mixture next time).   Fold in the blueberries until evenly distributed.

Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the top.  Tap the tin on the worktop a few times to settle the mixture and dispel any air bubbles.

Bake for 25-35 minutes until done.  Cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

To make the topping, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Sift in the icing sugar and beat in.  When the cake is completely cool, spread the topping over and swirl it or use a fork to create a pattern.  Distribute the extra blueberries over the top.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Cuts into 12-16 portions.

*If you want to make the recipe with caster sugar instead of Half Spoon, follow the advice in the link.  Essentially it implies that you would use twice as much sugar and less baking powder.  I haven't tried it!