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.