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.