Saturday, 13 March 2010

Store cupboard Cake

After spending a cold morning at the farmers market, I came in needing comfort and cake! But the cupboard was bare (ish), and I really couldn't be bothered going back out to the shops. So I made an orange store cupboard cake - using olive oil instead of butter. Filling the house with lovely orange scent, this is a moist and moreish cake that keeps well. Try when you next need a pick me up - it's quick and easy to make.

300g caster sugar 
3 eggs 
300g plain white flour sifted with 1tbsp baking powder 
Grated zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small orange
120ml extra-virgin olive oil 
80ml milk

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 5. Whisk the sugar and eggs together until light and fluffy - in a food mixer if you prefer. Add the juice and zest of the orange and the lemon zest and then stir in the olive oil and milk. Gently fold in the flour and transfer to a lightly greased (you can use olive oil if you wish) round tin about 20-24 cms in diameter (you can use a square or a loaf tin of similar size).

Bake for 40-45 minutes. You can test by inserting a skewer or something similar and it should come out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin then turn out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool. Eat for tea or as a dessert with mascarpone, whipped cream, crème fraîche or ice cream, and raspberries.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Cakes for Haiti

I'm making cakes for a fundraiser on Sunday at the Liverpool Palm House in Sefton Park. It's to raise money for Haiti. If you are in Liverpool on Sunday, pop in and support them, between 1pm and 4pm on the 21st February 2010. I've made 2 dozen little lemon cupcakes, iced and decorated (which is NOT my forte but they'll taste nice!).



250g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon (unwaxed or scrub it first)
4 eggs
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

For the lemon icing:
150g butter, softened
350g icing sugar, sifted
grated zest of 1 lemon (unwaxed or scrub it first)
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180C/GM4. Line a bun or fairy cake tin with cases. Either, cream butter and sugar together until thick and creamy and then add eggs, zest of 1 lemon and beat well. Fold in flour and baking powder. Or, stick the lot in a food processor and whizz together. I usually add a splash of milk to make a nice dropping consistency. If using fairy cake cases - this amount will make about 2 dozen. If you are using muffin cases - this amount will make about 1 dozen. Divide your mixture into whatever cases you are using and then put into the oven for approximately 15 minutes for the small cases and 20 for the large ones. I usually judge it by how golden they are and whether they have a nice springiness when pressed. Turn out on a wire rack and leave to cool.
Meanwhile cream butter (by hand or processor), then add zest and start sifting in the icing sugar, mixing well. Add the lemon juice and cream well. Once the cakes are cool, add the icing in nice dollops and then decorate as you please. I used little lemon jellies but sugar flowers would be very pretty.

Make some for your fundraiser or just for your friends!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Comfort Food

What's your ideal comfort food? Mine invariably involves cheese and carbohydrates in one form or another. Tonight it's macaroni cheese with leeks and ham, made with the odds and bits from the cheese box in the fridge. Topped with sliced tomatoes and baked til golden, I can kid myself that with the leeks and the tomatoes it's almost good for me!

For the sauce:
750ml/ 1pint 7 floz milk
50g/ 2oz unsalted butter plus extra for greasing oven dish
50g/ 2oz plain flour
175g / 6oz of strong cheese (cheddar or whatever's in your fridge!), grated
1/2 tsp English mustard
salt and white pepper
a grating of fresh nutmeg

300g/10oz macaroni
4 sliced ham, diced (or you can use bacon)
4 leeks, halved and sliced thinly
50g / 2oz butter
2 tomatoes
50g/2oz Parmesan, grated

Heat oven to 200C/400F/ Gas 6. Fill a large saucepan with water and put on a high heat to boil. Make the cheese sauce - I favour the all-in-one method - combine milk, butter & flour together in a pan and slowly bring to the simmer while whisking. Allow to simmer gently for 5 minute to cook out the flour, stirring to prevent it catching. Season well with salt, pepper & nutmeg. Remove off the heat and stir in the grated cheese and mustard. Set aside. The water should be boiling for the past now, add a good pinch of salt and the macaroni and cook for about 8 minutes, so it is still al dente. Rinse under cold water to prevent sticking and drain well. Heat remaining butter in a shallow pan and add leeks. Saute for 5-6 minutes until the leeks soften and start to turn gently golden. Add ham and cook for another minute. Stir into cheese sauce and add macaroni. Combine well and then turn into a shallow, greased ovenproof dish. Scatter with Parmesan and layer over sliced tomatoes. Put in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Serves 4.

I served this with a watercress salad, which my Dad managed to avoid eating....still it was very comforting on a cold and dreary February evening.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Pancake Day

Been a quiet on the blog front lately - all sorts of life changes including moving house, going part time at work, looking after my dad etc etc. BUT, now I'm back and ready to share lots of lovely recipes. Today is Shrove Tuesday, the last feast day before Lent and an opportunity to use up all the naughty goodies in your larder before 40 days of fasting. For most folk these days that means giving up alcohol or chocolate rather than the more puritanical abandonment of fats, eggs and meat. However, it's always a good excuse for a pancake! So many cultures and cuisines have pancakes in their repertoire, the Russian blini, French crepe, Korean pajeon and so on. Old fashioned but classic, the British pancake remains my favourite.

Take 110g / 4oz plain flour and sift into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Make a well and add 2 eggs and start to mix together. Start adding the liquid - 200ml/7fl oz milk mixed with 75ml/3fl oz water (I like to add soda water if I have it in - adds more air to the mixture), whisking well. Don't worry about lumps, they will disappear as you whisk. You should end up with a smooth thin cream. At this point I like to set the mix, covered, aside for 30 minutes. Melt 50g/2oz butter in a 7 inch frying pan and then once melted, pour into a bowl and set aside to use to lubricate the pan before making each pancake. Now, get the pan really hot, then turn down the heat to medium. Add a ladleful of pancake mix - this is the tester and so can be eaten by the cook! Swirl the mixture around the pan to coat the base evenly. It will only take half a minute and you will see the batter forming a skin on the visible side. Flip the pancake - with a palette knife if you're not feeling brave or go for the full toss! Cook for another 10 seconds or so and then transfer to a warm plate. Continue the process, layering up the pancakes with greasproof paper or kitchen towel. Serve each pancake sprinkled with sugar and a squeeze of lemon and rolled up. Yum! Makes about 12.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Bottling Green Sunshine

My sister has given me 11 lbs of green tomatoes - a casualty of our deeply rubbish and very grey summer here in the North West. However, all is not lost because green tomatoes make the most wonderful chutney! So am chopping and stirring madly to turn it all into green sunshine in a jar. If you have some tomatoes of your own that haven't quite ripened - have a go at this recipe:

4lbs green tomatoes, 2lbs cooking apples, 1/2 lb onions, 3 garlic cloves, 1lb sultanas, 2 oz ginger, 2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp crushed chillis, 2lbs demerara sugar, 1 tbsp salt, 1 & 1/2 pints vinegar.

Heat a frying pan and add mustard seeds to toast gently for 1 minute. Transfer to a pestle & mortar and crush lightly. Chop tomatoes, onions and apples roughly. Crush garlic with salt and grate ginger. Put everything into a big preserving pan and slowly bring to simmering point. Leave to cook gently for 3 hours - stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. It will become thick and soft. Don't let it completely dry out - it will be ready when you can draw a spoon through the mixture and it leaves a clear channel with no vinegar in it. Boil the kettle and pour hot water into your jars to sterilise. Upend, pouring out the water and put into a low oven to dry out. Pot up your chutney and seal. Put away for 1 month before eating. Will keep for a year unopened.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Farmers Market Woolton

Shopping for food in a farmers market is a marvellous thing - even better when you get to sample stuff before you buy. Today's booty included peanut butter fudge (wrong but so right - if you like salted caramels and a sweet & savoury flavour mix - you'd love it); organic beef burgers; natural smoked haddock; farmhouse butter and more of Sandra Dee's lovely rye bread. Wasn't just there to shop my friend Emma and I run our own stall selling our handmade jams, curds & chutneys. Today's bestsellers - pumpkin & ginger chutney, apple & chilli jelly, lime curd & very berry jam.

Friday, 9 October 2009

let them eat cake

Been a bit miserable of late (as my friends will know - sorry everyone!) but the one thing that always makes me more chirpy and helps me forget the world is cooking. It's cold and grey outside and I am on my last day of my two week break from work. So there's nothing for it but to head into the (half painted kitchen - I can't reach the top bit - any offers from tall people gladly accepted) and bake a cake. I'm not sure what it says about me that I always have the ingredients to hand to bake a cake - I'd like to think it's because I'm nurturing and motherly but I think it's probably more to do with greed! My favourite cake recipe is a drizzle cake by Nigel Slater. I've made this cake so much I know the recipe off by heart - give it a go and let your home fill with the scent of delicious cakeyness (not a word but you know what I mean).

200g butter, 200g caster sugar - cream together well until light and fluffy. Add the zest of either 1 orange or 2 large lemons. Add 3 eggs. Stir well. Fold in 200g self raising flour. Spoon into either an 8 inch round cake tin or a 2lb loaf tin that you've buttered and lined with greaseproof paper. Put in a preheated oven at 180C (or 160 fan) for 40 - 50 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Meantime measure out 125g demerara sugar or granulated sugar and add the juice of whichever citrus fruit you've used. Stir well til the sugar crystals dissolve. Stab cake with a fork or skewer all over and pour over citrus & sugar mix. Leave to cook before you remove from the tin or it might fall apart. Eat as a teatime treat or a delicious dessert with cream.... and then feel a whole lot more cheerful!