September 29, 2022

COQ AU RIESLING

 


This is another very retro dish, but with a twist.  It's coq au vin but made with white wine.

I can actually remember the very first time I ate coq au vin (the red wine version).  Nick and I were on our very first motorcycle tour of France in May 1994.  The weather was decidedly iffy and we were camping.  Nick was keen to show me a place where he had camped a couple of  years before (probably with his previous girlfriend but we won't dwell on that!).


We made our way down through France and landed up in Chinon.  The campsite there is across the river from the town itself.  We pitched the tent and as the light faded the view of the river with its lovely old  bridge, the boulevard along the river bank and the château overlooking everything, in all its splendour, was a sight I shall never forget.

We strolled across the bridge into town for dinner and, being exhausted from a long ride, fell into the first restaurant that was open.  It was the Café des Arts in the beautiful square with the fountain.  There we had coq au vin and crème brulée before staggering back to the tent and our sleeping bags.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  

Chinon became our all time favourite town in France and we went back there for at least part of our holiday every year, often more than once.  Now that we spend half the year in our house in France it is almost just around the corner.  The Café des Arts has been spruced up somewhat in the intervening years but still serves great food.

This white wine version is loosely based on a Nigella Lawson recipe which you will find in her book Nigella Express.

Ingredients

1 pack of lardons, about 150g

1 leek, finely sliced

4 small skinless chicken thighs (or a pack of chicken mini fillets, about 350g)

a handful (half a punnet) of mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 bay leaves

1 tblsp garlic oil for frying

half a bottle of riesling wine

Method

Heat the oil in a sauté or frying pan  that has a lid.  Fry the lardons then add the leeks and cook until softened.

Add the chicken pieces, bay leaves, mushrooms and wine, season with salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook with the lid on for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Stir in the cream and heat for another minute or two.  

Remove the bay leaves before serving with pasta, rice or potatoes.  Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley or dill if you like.

Serves 2-4, depending on the amount of chicken.

September 21, 2022

SPAGHETTI SQUASH AND RATATOUILLE SOUP (soup maker recipe)

This has to be one of the best soups I have ever made using leftovers in the soup maker.

After our bbq we had half a roasted spaghetti squash left.  You can read how I cooked it here.

We also had a few of these, barbecued mini potatoes.


They were parboiled, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with garlic and herb seasoning before roasting on the bbq as per a James Martin recipe that I found somewhere.

I also used some leftover ratatouille, made roughly to Raymymond Blanc's recipe for "quick ratatouille".


Delicious!

Ingredients

About a pint of leftover ratatouille

Half a roasted spaghetti squash, flesh scraped into the machine (skin discarded)

2 small leftover bbq'd potatoes

3 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

1 veg stock pot

Enough veg to fill to the bottom line

Enough water to fill to the top line

Cook on "smooth" setting.

Makes 4 generous portions.

September 20, 2022

FIG, APPLE AND ALMOND TORTE (and what makes a cake a torte instead of a cake?)


I'm back in France* and a few days ago I went to lunch at a friend's house.  On arrival I admired her fig tree which was loaded with gorgeous small ripe fruit.  On leaving she gave me some of them.

I looked through my collection of cookbooks and on t'internet for some ideas on what to do with them.

I settled on a recipe for "blackberry and apple torte" by Jo Wheatley (one of the early "bake off" winners) which I thought would adapt nicely.  It’s a recipe in her blog which is an adaptation of one from her book called "A passion for baking" where it was originally a recipe for a raspberry torte.  I do have the recipe book but it's back in the UK so I couldn’t do what I would normally do which is to go and look it up! The raspberry version of the recipe can be found, if you Google it, on the Daily Mail website.   I hope you're keeping up!

My own adaptation was to use the small figs instead of the blackberries. However, with both recipes open on my iPad I spotted a discrepancy; in one it suggested an oven temperature of 170° fan and in the other 160° fan.  Hmmmm……

I decided to split the difference and go with 165° and it was done in 40 minutes.  Next time I would check after thirty because it was if anything a tiny tad over baked.

A puzzle sprang to mind as I was looking at these recipes and that is - what makes a cake a torte rather than a cake?  I Googled it and there were so many different explanations that I decided it's probably  entirely down to the whim of the recipe writer.  For myself I thought a torte would be more of a dessert cake than an afternoon tea kind of cake so that’s what I've stuck with here!  Any other suggestions on a postcard, please!

It was a very nice cake.  Torte.  Whatever.  I like recipes that can be adapted to use whatever fruit you have in and this one is good for that. 

Ingredients 

150g each of: 

self raising flour,

softened butter or baking spread,

caster sugar,

ground almonds

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 eggs, beaten

1 eating apple, peeled and cubed, made up to 150g fruit with small figs, quartered.

2 tblsp apricot jam to glaze

Method

Preheat the oven to 165° fan.  Butter and line the base of a 23cm round springform tin.

In a large bowl, beat together the flour, sugar, butter, eggs and cinnamon until smooth.  Stir the cubes of apple through the mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the tin, level the top and tap on the worktop a few times to dispel any trapped air.  Arrange the quartered figs on top and push slightly into the mixture.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until done.  Cool in the tin for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Put the apricot jam into a small saucepan and heat gently to melt it.  Brush over the finished cake. (Alternatively, just dust with icing sugar.)

Serve with cream, ice cream or crème anglais.  Also delicious just as it is.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

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

*When I say "I'm back in France" it’s because Nick is still in the UK.  Before my dad died I spent several weeks in the UK while Nick was in France with the cat and the dog.  Hence we are significantly out of step with each other in terms of the number of days we have left out of our 180 days.  (Our six month visas expired a couple of weeks ago but we can still go up to 180 days within the Schengen rules.)  Consequently he's spending another ten days in the UK so that he can catch up a bit and we can both stay here until the end of October.  It’s all so complicated since Brexit.  

Our plan was that my brother would be spending the ten days here with me so he could have a bit  of a holiday.  Looking after the care of an elderly person month after month is exhausting, draining and all consuming and we are all in need of some rest and relaxation.

Sadly, not many weeks after the funeral my brother ended up in hospital himself.  He had a pulmonary embolism with complications and has now been there for five weeks, the last four of them in intensive care.  He's very poorly indeed.  It never rains but what it pours.  This has not been the best year for us.

September 9, 2022

ROASTED SPAGHETTI SQUASH

Last month a friend in France gave us a spaghetti squash from her new garden where they have grown really well.  I had never seen one before.

The theory is that the cooked squash can be used as an alternative to pasta in numerous dishes.  Like all squashes it doesn't have a great deal of flavour in its own right.  It's a vegetable that carries the flavours that you cook it in, much like pasta in fact.  

I remember how my mum used to make stuffed marrow every autumn, using the marrows that my dad grew in the garden.  The marrow was almost tasteless but the dish was something we looked forward to every year.  You can read about that here.

When the squash is cooked the flesh shreds easily into strands, hence the name spaghetti squash.




My friend had sent me a link to a recipe on how to cook it and another one for barbecued spaghetti squash caught my eye.  It involved roasting it in the oven for a while then finishing it off on the barbecue.  The weather was perfect for barbecuing.

I cut it in half lengthways and scooped out the middle containing the seeds, which was easy to do.  I then cut it into quarters and placed it on a baking sheet.  I then drizzled it generously with garlic flavoured olive oil, seasoned well with salt and pepper and baked in the oven at 180°fan for twenty minutes.  It was almost done and the strands were beginning to form.


I then handed it over to Nick who was in charge of the bbq.  He placed two of the quarters on a foil tray and finished the cooking on the grill.


Once the squash was tender I lifted out the strands of flesh by drawing a fork through it lengthwise.  You can then do all kinds of imaginative things with it by adding other veg, meats and sauces but just because I had no idea what to expect I served it plain as a vegetable side dish to our bbq.  



It was pleasant to eat, as are most things cooked with olive oil and garlic!  I would definitely do this again.  

There were only two of us at the bbq so half of the cooked squash was left.  I turned that into a really good soup along with the other leftovers from the bbq; some ratatouille and bbq'd potatoes.  That was truly delicious and worthy of a post by itself.  

September 7, 2022

ORANGE AND ALMOND CAKE



I’ve had my eye on this Michel Roux recipe* for a while and when the weather in France last month  turned from heatwave to unsettled muggy showers my thoughts wandered from ice cream to pudding and the opportunity arose.  

For some reason I don't buy oranges all that often but on this occasion I had several in the fruit bowl whispering "cake, cake" as I walked past.  The stars were once again aligned.


The recipe states that the top should be decorated with toasted almonds but I used strands of orange peel instead.  Toasting almonds is one of those tasks that I shy away from as they can turn from sweet and toasty to burnt and bitter in no time at all unless you keep your eye on them.  It's the sort of thing I can do if I have my ducks in a row and brain in gear but somehow those two things don't align quite so often these days, well certainly not this year anyway.


In the recipe it is suggested that you serve the cake with orange segments marinaded in whisky but I didn't do that either.  Instead I served a bowl of poached nectarines and plums alongside - because I had selected them from an abundance of gorgeous fruit in the greengrocer's a couple of days before.  Also because it would offer a choice of dessert for our guests - cake, or cake and fruit, or just fruit.  In the end everybody had both!  I also served a bowl of softly whipped cream to go with all options.  (You can see the recipe for the fruit on my blog here.)

It was a truly fabulous dessert cake!
The orange flavour was lovely and it was very moist, largely due to the syrup that you make and douse the cake with when it's still warm.  Just because of the syrup I have given the recipe two stars in the faff factor, although really it was not that much extra work and maybe one and a half stars would have been fairer.

I kept leftovers in the fridge and the cake was still moist and delicious several days later.  (It only lasted that long because we had a frenzy of catching up with friends and impromptu eating out over the next few days.)  Definitely a cake that I will make again.

*I hesitate to give a link to the original recipe.  On a few occasions recently when I have looked back at older posts on my blog where links have been given, strange things have happened.  Some links have disappeared altogether and some now link to something else entirely.  So I haven't added a link here and might not do again.  In fact I might even, over the long winter evenings, if I can be bothered and have finished all my half knitted jumpers, go back to more posts and delete all links.  

I will always acknowledge where the recipe comes from.  This one comes from a book called "cooking with the master chef" and if you Google the recipe you will find the original easily in several places on t'internet.

Ingredients
For the cake

50g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
225g caster sugar
250g ground almonds
250g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tbslp finely grated orange zest (about two oranges)
4 eggs

For the glaze and decoration

80ml freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1½ oranges)
60g soft light brown sugar
1 tblsp orange marmalade
the coarsely grated zest or peel of 1 orange

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan/ gas mk 4.  Butter a 20cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ground almonds and caster sugar, making sure there are no lumps.  Sift in the flour and baking powder.

In another bowl, using a hand held electric whisk, beat the butter with the orange zest until pale and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Fold the almond and flour mixture into the second bowl until smooth.  Pour into the prepared tin, level the top and bake for 45 minutes or until cooked.

While the cake is baking, put the orange juice and brown sugar into a small pan and bring to the boil to make the syrup.  Set aside to cool.

When the cake is done, remove from the oven, prick the cake all over, right to the bottom, with a skewer and pour the cooled syrup all over.  Leave to cool in the tin.

When the cake is cool, run a knife round the edge of the cake and release carefully as it is slightly fragile.  Place on a cake plate or stand.

Warm the marmalade in a small pan and brush all over the cake.  Scatter the orange peel over the top to decorate.

Cuts into 8-12 slices.

August 11, 2022

LEMON CURD LAYER CAKE

This is the cake I made for the afternoon tea for our friend's birthday back in March.  It's on the front cover of Delia Smith's book "Baking" and I remember very clearly the first time I tasted it, many years ago.  It's  a favourite of Nick's family and his youngest sister had made it for his mum's birthday tea.  


The recipe calls for home made lemon curd.  I have made lemon curd successfully in the past but on this occasion I used a jar of Bon Maman.  The curious thing is, Bon Maman is a French product but I have never found the lemon curd for sale anywhere in France, even though I do look for it in the confiture section of every supermarket.  Other lemon curds are available but are not quite as good so this time I brought some to France from the UK with me, which did seem a bizarre thing to do.  

I wan't quite sure whether this was strictly legal.  Does the butter content of lemon curd, even shop bought, mean that it should, strictly speaking, be classed as dairy?  In which case it's no longer legal to bring it to France.  If however it's classed as jam, we're ok.  The joy of Brexit, the gift that keeps on giving and nobody has got what they voted for, whatever that was, and very few actually understand the new rules anyway.


The cake is made in two sandwich tins and each layer is then sliced into two.  This is not my favourite thing to do and gives me the collywobbles every time I even think about it.  What if I didn't make the cut evenly and the cake ended up all wonky?  Luckily on this occasion I had a sufficiently steady hand and it turned out straight, but I did need a bit of a lie down afterwards.  For that reason alone I have given it two stars in the faff factor.


It was easy to make, looked great on the tea table and tasted divine.  You can't really go wrong with a Delia Smith recipe and a cake with such a pedigree, Bon Maman product not withstanding, was bound to be a big hit.  It was lovely.

Ingredients

For the cake
zest of 1 lemon 
1 tblsp of lemon juice 
175g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
175g butter, at room temperature
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs

For the filling
a jar of good quality lemon curd, shop bought or home made

For the icing
zest of 1 lemon, removed with a zester, not a grater, so as to get long, curly strips of peel
50g icing sugar
2-3 tsp lemon juice

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C / 150° fan / gas mk3.  Grease two 20cm sandwich tins and line the base of each with baking paper.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add all the other cake ingredients and beat with an electric whisk until smooth and creamy.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and level the tops.  Bake for around 35 minutes until done.  Remove to cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing, first remove the peel from the lemon for the decoration.

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add enough lemon juice to make a runny consistency.

When the cakes are completely cold, carefully slice each one in half using a sharp serrated knife.  Place one layer on a cake plate or stand and spread liberally with the lemon curd.

Repeat with another two layers then place the fourth layer on top.  Spread the icing on the top layer and decorate with the curly strips of lemon peel.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

August 9, 2022

PRUNE AND CHOCOLATE MINI MUFFINS

For the afternoon tea in France a few weeks ago (see here) I made some mini muffins to a recipe by Delia Smith.  I spotted the recipe in one of her older cook books, simply called "Baking", when I was actually looking for something else - the lemon curd layer cake that's on the cover (and in the next post).

I wanted some little bite sized cakes to adorn the top layer of the cake stand and these sounded perfect for the job.  I haven't found the recipe anywhere on the internet but it does seem that chocolate, prune and Armagnac (or other alcohol) is a combo that Delia is quite fond of as she has other recipes such as for a cake, mini cakes and a chocolate log.  I can't fault it - they are a match made in heaven...well probably not quite that saintly, owing to the booze!



For the icing I used Lynn Hill's recipe for a chocolate glaze which you can see here although I only made a half quantity.  In the above picture it looks a bit dull because the cakes had been in the fridge for a while, but on the day of making it looked fabulous - dark and glossy.  I decorated my muffins with halved glacé cherries, chocolate raisins and chocolate vermicelli, but you can obviously use your imagination here.  

They were very rich, boozy and chocolatey!  The prunes gave a slightly fruity hint but I doubt anyone would have identified it as prune if they didn't already know.  (Prunes do have a bad press, owing to their 1950's health food connotations !)  Each one was a perfect little morsel.


I froze the leftover muffins to enjoy later and they were just as good.

Ingredients
For the muffins

50g Agen prunes, stoned
55ml Armagnac
150g plain flour
2 tblsp cocoa powder
1 dessertspoon baking powder  (a dessert spoon is about ⅔ of a tablespoon)
¼ tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
40g golden caster sugar
120 ml milk
50g butter, melted and slightly cooled
50g plain chocolate drops

For the topping

100g dark chocolate, chopped
45g unsalted butter
glacé cherries, halved, chocolate raisins and chocolate vermicelli to decorate.

Method

Chop the prunes into small chunks and soak in the Armagnac overnight or for as long as you can.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.  Put 24 mini muffin cases into a mini muffin tin.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.

In another large bowl, mix together the beaten egg, sugar, milk and melted butter.

Sift the dry ingredients (again) into the wet mixture and fold them in quickly.  Then add the chocolate drops, prunes and Armagnace and mix briefly again.

Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin cases (about one heaped teaspoonful in each) and bake for 10 minutes.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing from the tin to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the topping, melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Stir frequently until smooth and allow to cool slightly before using.  Spread about a teaspoonful on the top of each muffin and decorate as you like.

Makes 24 mini muffins.

July 14, 2022

PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN BUNDT CAKE


There has not been much baking going on chez nous the last few weeks.  My time has been devoted to crossing the channel there and back again in order to manage the care of my dad.  Sadly, a spell in our local hospital sent him spiraling into decline and he passed away on 2nd July.

One of the sad things about all this is that my brother missed out on his 60th birthday.  He was supposed to be spending it chez nous in France where we were intending to have a party.  Instead he spent it on his own, apart from visiting our dad in hospital.

For his 60th my brother had requested a pineapple upside down cake.  I make my cheat's version of an upside down cake which you can see here quite often and it's good.  However, the day before his Big Birthday, by which time all our plans had already gone awry,  I spotted this recipe on Marie Rayner's blog and thought to myself "now there's a thing" and vowed to make it at the first opportunity. 

The last few weeks have passed in a blur of activity and official rigmarole but by last weekend we had the chance to draw breath and the opportunity to finally celebrate my brother's 60th.  

This is a wonderful cake.  Easy to make and a delight to eat.  We enjoyed it following a bbq lunch in the glorious July sunshine.  

I didn't use my Nordic Ware Bundt tin as it's ginormous.  Instead I used a similar design, less sharp in profile of course, but it was perfect for the job.  Slices of tinned pineapple are cut in half and arranged in the bottom of the tin curved side down as in the picture above.  The finished cake then slipped out of the tin with barely a crumb left behind thanks to my usual cake release mixture (see here).  Magic !!

I didn't use all the liquid stated in the original ingredients because to me the mixture already looked the right consistency and even with the reduced amount it took quite a bit longer to cook.  It was plenty moist enough.  I have shown my amendments in the recipe below but please do refer to the original if you decide to make this fabulous cake.

Ingredients

For the topping

100g soft light brown sugar

60g butter, melted

8 tinned pineapple slices in juice, drained and reserve the juice

8 glacé cherries, rinsed

For the cake

350g plain flour

3 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

240g caster sugar

175g butter, softened (I used Sainsbury's Buttersoft spread)

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 medium eggs

75ml milk

75ml pineapple juice reserved from the can

Method

Grease a medium sized Bundt tin using your favourite method, making sure you reach into all the nooks and crannies.

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

Mix together the brown sugar and butter for the topping and pour it evenly into the bottom of the tin.

Drain the pineapple slices and reserve the juice.  Cut each slice in half and place two halves rounded side down in the tin as shown in the picture above.  Place a rinsed glacé cherry in each of the spaces between.

Using a stand mixer or hand held beater, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding the vanilla extract.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together and blend one third into the mixture, alternating with the milk and pineapple juice.  I used only about half the quantity of liquid stated in the original recipe so add a little more to loosen the mixture if it seems too stiff.

Spoon the mixture into the tin carefully so as not to disturb the arrangement of the fruit.  Tap the tin on the worktop a few times to settle the mixture and dispel any air pockets.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until done.  This is about twenty minutes longer than stated in the original recipe so check after 40 just in case.

Leave the cooked cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Cuts into at least 12 generous slices.

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

(Woe betide that my brother's 60th birthday should forever be defined by a hospital visit on the day it was discovered that the staff had lost my poor dear father's dental plate, making it almost impossible for him to talk or even drink through a straw, therefore contributing to his rapid demise.  Let it be noted here that my respect for the medical and nursing professions are not what they were before they had him in their care for three weeks.  The level of neglect and indifference for someone who was elderly, frail, vulnerable, confused and completely dependent on them was callous to say the least.)

June 19, 2022

MIXED FRUIT CLAFOUTIS and some gadgets.

A clafoutis is one of my favourite desserts and the recipe I most often use for it (well I have only experimented with a couple of others) is this one from my friend Susan.

The traditional clafoutis would be cherry and another favourite of mine is apricot.  I looked in the fridge and found a few of each so I decided to put them together.  Why not!

It's important to have the right size of baking dish, not too shallow nor too deep. I find this 20cm Pyrex dish is just the right size for a single layer of fruit and the batter. 

The batter is simple to make and quite forgiving in terms of ingredients.  This time I had a tub of Elmlea single (which is largely buttermilk) and some whole milk.  I often add a sprinkling of flaked almonds which is not really traditional but we like it!

Another essential piece of kit is a cherry stoner.  Some say that the cherries should not be stoned because stones add flavour.  For me, spitting out cherry stones takes away some of the joy that is a clafoutis so I always stone them.  The problem is in finding a good cherry stoner that works.  I have had several that don’t, that have been a real pain to use and ended up in the bin.

So, having decided to make an apricot and cherry clafoutis, I went looking for my cherry stoner but the cupboard (drawer actually) was bare!  So I had to go and buy one.

First I headed to my absolute favourite shop, the hardware shop in the little town two miles away.  They have everything and what they don’t have they can get for you.  Sadly, the owner rummaged through boxes of ancient stock and was gutted to find that a cherry stoner was one of the few items they did not have!  

I couldn’t wait two days for their next trip to the wholesalers so I headed into the big town.  Actually to the retail park just on the outskirts of town, to Dunelm Mill.

On the way there I pondered how much our town has changed and how much I miss it.  It's now becoming a ghost town of charity shops and cheap clothing stores, the only decent shops left being M&S, Boots, Wilko and W H Smith’s.  I do wonder how much longer they will last, they must be hanging on by the skin of their teeth. 

Ours used to be a wonderful small market town. It had a BHS, Richard Shop, a small department store called Turner’s, with creaky floorboards and wrinkly carpet, a bigger furniture store, M&S*, Littlewoods, a myriad of independent shops and, best of all, the Co-op.  The Co-op was in a fabulous Tudor style timbered building, and you could buy everything there that you could possibly need, from beds to shoes and cosmetics. 

The household linens dept was wonderful, selling curtain fabrics, dress fabrics and a huge range of knitting wool.  The toy department was magnificent and best of all was the kitchenware department where you could buy absolutely everything.

When it closed some years ago I was so sad.  I knew a couple of the assistants, ladies whose whole careers had been working for the Co-op, and they said it was the internet that killed the shop.  People would go to the Co-op to choose something, ask the assistants for their advice based on years of product knowledge and experience, then go home and order it online.

Now these shoppers can no longer see what they’re actually ordering, they have to gamble that it’s something like the description on the website then send it back and wait for a refund.  Still, it keeps all those van drivers in a job and saves the online retailers from having to have too much capital in the bank, they use their customers money instead, hanging on to it for a couple of weeks before they send the refund!

Anyway, for £5 I bought the only cherry stoner that Dunelm had and, believe or not, it actually works -without smashing the cherry to bits or splattering juice everywhere!  The question is, would I have ordered it if I had seen it on the internet?  Probably not, as its bright pink colour makes it look more like a toy than a serious piece of kit!




Another gadget needed is a whisk.  Did you have one of these?  We did.  My mum used one for making pancake or Yorkshire pudding batter, and for whisking up Instant Whip.  It was one of the many things that vanished after she died.  Dad probably thought he would never use it so got rid of it, along with her cake tins and mixing bowl.  It never occurred to him that his daughter might like to have them.



I recently treated myself to one of these, having seen it recommended in a blog somewhere. It’s an Oxo Good Grips modern version of the old fashioned hand whisk and it’s brilliant for beating up batters, whisking up cream and anything for which the electric version seems a little over the top.  The business end comes apart and the bits go in the dishwasher too!



A clafoutis is nice served slightly warm or at room temperature, dusted with a little icing sugar if you like and with a dollop of cream or ice cream.  Or just plain, like this one.

(*I just discovered yesterday (27th June) that our M&S is moving from the town centre to a vacant building in a nearby retail park, one that was previously occupied by Debenhams.  This will happen in a few weeks' time.  It’s a good move for M&S as it’s a big, modern building and good news for shoppers as the parking is right outside and free. I will probably shop there more often as a result.  It’s very bad news for the town centre and the other shops as M&S is the only reason that many people go into town at all.)

Ingredients

50g plain flour

50g ground almonds

100g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

250 ml of liquid consisting cream, plain yoghurt and whole milk

a handful of apricots and cherries

a spoonful of flaked almonds

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Butter a suitable baking dish.

Use enough fruit to make a single layer in the bottom of the dish.  Remove the stones from the cherries and apricots and cut the apricots into quarters.

Put the flour, ground almonds, sugar, liquids and and eggs into a medium bowl and whisk until well combined.  Pour the mixture over the fruit and scatter flaked almonds over the top if you like.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and firm.

Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with icing sugar if you like and with a dollop of cream or ice cream.

Serves 6.

June 10, 2022

SCHOOL CAKE


I do remember having this as a pudding for school dinners - a sponge cake topped with jam and coconut, scooped in chunks from enormous baking trays.  It was served with pink custard usually once a week, maybe every two weeks at the most.  I loved it!  The dinners at my secondary school were excellent, especially the puddings! 

I first made it myself as part of my afternoon tea.  You can read about that here.  I used quite a large traybake tin which made a shallow sponge, easy to cut into tiny squares.



The squares looked the bees knees when topped with a fresh raspberry and tasted divine.  I took a box full of the leftovers to my knitting group where they were very popular.

I made the cake again for another event, cut into larger squares to be served as a dessert.  It was equally popular.  This recipe is definitely a keeper!  You can see the original here.


It's hard to resist such a dainty treat!

One thing I haven't done with it so far is to repeat the whole school experience and actually serve it with pink custard!  There's time yet!  

Ingredients

For the cake

225g baking spread

225g caster sugar

225g self raising flour

4 eggs

a splash of milk if needed

For the topping

a jar of raspberry jam

25g desiccated coconut

a small punnet of fresh raspberries (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk 4.  Grease and line the base of a traybake tin measuring roughly 30 x 18cm.

Put all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until creamy and well combined.  Whisk in a splash of milk if it seems rather stiff.

Pour the mixture into the tin and spread out evenly, levelling the top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until done.

Take the cake out of the oven.  Put about half of the jar of jam into a small bowl and stir to loosen it.  Spread this over the warm cake, making sure there are no bare patches.

Sprinkle the desiccated coconut over the jam in a thick dusting and leave to cool in the tin.

When cool mark the top into squares to be cut later or cut into squares of the required size straight away.

To decorate, cut a thin sliver from the flat end of each raspberry - this makes sure they stand pointy end up and don't wobble over.  Place one in the middle of each square and gently push it into the jam slightly so that it stays put.

Serves as many as you like, depending on the size of squares you want.

June 9, 2022

CHICKEN, LEEK AND POTATO SOUP (soup maker recipe)

 


One of the recipes I regularly cook for dinner, for ourselves or guests, is Rachel Allen's chicken open pot roast.  You can see it here and I first wrote about it here.

This time I had one portion left over.  1 chicken thigh, a few chunks of potato, a few slices of leek and a tablespoon, or thereabouts, of the delicious sauce.  So I decided to make a soup.  It was yummy!

It also shows how easy it can be to turn not very much in terms of leftovers into a tasty lunch for next to nothing.

Ingredients

1 cooked chicken thigh

a few chunks of cooked potato

a few slices of cooked leek

Any remaining sauce from the dish

1 medium potato

1 onion

1 large carrot

1 chicken stock pot

Method

Put the cooked veg into the soup maker.  Remove the meat from the bone of the chicken thigh, discard the skin, tear the meat into small pieces and add it to the veg.

Add the uncooked veg, peeled and cut into large chunks, enough to fill to the bottom line.

Add the stock pot and water to the top line.

Cook on smooth.

Makes four generous portions.