Thursday, 13 October 2016

Cherry & almond cake

A simple cake that has gone down well at recent bake sales! Much abridged recipe for reference.

4 med/large eggs & the same weight (~250g) in each of caster sugar, self raising flour and butter
1 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
vanilla essence
1 tub glace cherries
cherry or other jam
~6-10 tbsp icing sugar
handful flaked almonds

Set the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan, and grease and line a 20cm round tin.

Make the sponge (butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder) by creaming or all-in-one. Add 50g ground almonds to the mix, and a few drops of almond essence, and mix well.

From a tub of glace cherries, save 4-6 good ones. Chop the rest in half and rinse off the sugar syrup. Dry them on kitchen towel and coat in flour before stirring gently into the cake mix. This means they won't sink :)

Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 45-55 minutes or until cooked according to the skewer test. You might also put slightly less in the tin and make a couple of small cupcakes with the rest, to appease small helpers who aren't allowed a slice of the finished object.

When cool, cut in half horizontally and sandwich with cherry jam or another of your choice.

To decorate, mix icing sugar with water to a thick but dribble-able consistency and decorate the top however you wish, all over or arty squiggles etc. Toast some flaked almonds and scatter on top, then finish with the cherries, halved and distributed as you wish (depends if you are aiming for 12 polite slices or 8 more generous ones!). Sacrificing one or two of these cherries for the optional cupcakes may help avert tantrums.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Lentil and spinach curry

An easy weeknight veggie recipe from Prima. This was really tasty and very simple. My modified version used no chilli, and no stock as the tinned lentils were already cooked and needed no extra liquid. Even without it, the curry was quite soupy.

Fry a chopped onion until translucent, and add 3-4 tbsp (or to taste) of curry paste and a little water. This time I used Patak's Rogan Josh. Tip in 2 drained tins of green lentils and one of tomatoes, plus a small tin of coconut cream/milk (I used cream) and simmer while you cook the rice. With about 5-10 mins left, drop in several blocks of frozen spinach (I used about 7 since that's what was left in the bag!) and cook until defrosted and heated through. This made 4 polite portions or 3 hearty ones.

Next time I'd add a load of finely chopped mushrooms with the onion, to bulk out the curry and add a different texture. Definitely one to cook again.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Pork & leek lasagne with lighter cheese sauce

Lasagne is a favourite around here, but I can't deny that 'proper' (white sauce-based) cheese sauce is a bit heavy and rich at times. This recipe tries out a variation using cottage cheese. It's not a substitute, as in nobody would confuse the two, but it's a decent variation.

700g pork shoulder steaks, chopped into small pieces (I prefer this to mince)
2 red onions, chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped
200-300g mushrooms, finely chopped
stock cube (I used Knorr ham)
dried thyme, sage, and freshly ground black pepper
splash of balsamic vinegar
splash of oil

500g plain cottage cheese (I used full fat)
2 eggs, separated

To construct:
lasagne sheets
50g grated cheese

Cook the onion gently in the oil with the balsamic until translucent. Add the leeks and mushrooms, cook for a few minutes, then add the stock. Cook down until just softening.

Meanwhile, brown the pork in a separate pan, with the thyme and sage and black pepper. Once browned, combine with the vegetable mix, adding any juices.

Blend the cottage cheese with the egg yolks until smooth. Whisk the whites and fold them in (souffle style).

Construct the lasagne as you like (for me this made 3 layers of filling-pasta-sauce, with cheese on top). Cook at 160 for 30-40 minutes.

Verdict - pretty tasty. I will investigate ramping up the flavour of the cheese sauce, perhaps some mustard would give it a punch. I'd also consider separating the veg from the inevitable juices, and then thickening them separately with some cornflour before adding back.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Moroccan potato bake

This recipe came via Tinned Tomatoes, although is not original to that blog. It fulfilled both a need for an easy extra meal this week (menu planing fail) and more veggie meals. I liked it and would make it again!

My tweaked version:

Cook 750g potatoes in vegetable stock to the just-cooked point. I used charlotte as they are my favourite combination of flavour and texture. When you drain them, save some of the stock!

Chop a red onion and 2 cloves garlic. Soften in a pan with oil first, then a splash of stock and the spices (to taste: smoked paprika, cumin, ginger, sumac) plus tomato puree, a chopped preserved lemon, and white wine or cider vinegar. Also add chopped jarred (roasted and skinned) red peppers and peas. Simmer for a few minutes then add the potatoes and reserved stock, and bash around a bit so they start to break and add thickness to the sauce. Simmer further to the desired consistency.

The main edits I made were to use a whole onion (nobody needs half an onion hanging about), add sumac for a bit of extra zing, and peas for colour and extra veg. It could do with some protein so next time I'd add chickpeas, or chicken or sausage if I didn't want it to be veggie. But the lemon, vinegar and sumac made for a different-tasting dish and that was the best bit.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Pear and ginger upside down cake

An Asda recipe. A 2-egg sponge with ground cinnamon and ginger and chopped ginger in syrup, and 6 pear halves on the bottom with a butter/sugar mix to caramelise.

I used dark brown sugar, not light, as I didn't have any light. I added some of the syrup from the jar to the butter/sugar mix for the top. I also made a mess in the oven because I used a springform/loose bottomed tin, and the butter/sugar leaked out. Sigh.

Might be better with a 3-egg mix to give more depth over/under the pears. Something like this yogurt cake could also be interesting (with added spice).

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Cheesy veggie burgers

A BBC Good Food recipe, part of an ongoing quest for less meat in our shopping trolley...
2 tbsp olive oil
2 leek, sliced
200g mushroom, sliced
2 large carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
1 tbsp seasoning
1 tbsp soy sauce
300g can pinto beans, drained
100g cheddar, coarsely grated
200g granary bread torn into pieces
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a shallow saucepan over a medium flame. Tip in vegetables, seasoning and soy sauce, then cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 mins until soft. Tip veg into a food processor with the beans, cheese and bread, season, then pulse to a thick paste.
With wet hands, mould mix into 8 burgers. These can be kept in the fridge for 2 days or frozen, stacked between greaseproof sheets for up to 2 months.
To cook, heat oil in a frying pan and fry 2-3 mins on each side until crispy.
190 cals each excluding any oil used for frying and the panko (see below).

Notes and edits for next time:
  • A good recipe to use up stale bread and the ends of veg.
  • This makes 8 really generous burgers but is too much for the processor to mix properly. Could either pulse together in two halves, or pulse the cheese & bread, take out, pulse the veg on its own, and then mix the lot together in a bowl instead.
  • I used jerk seasoning and extra thyme, which came out well. Worcestershire sauce would be better than soy.
  • I drained the veg after cooking, as there was a lot of liquid. I added some back into the burger mix but it was a bit too much - definitely drain, be very restrained next time!
  • I think I'd prefer less leek and more mushrooms, for better body.
  • Not really cheesy enough to be called cheesy veggie burgers. Up the cheese or maybe put a small square in the middle of each one.
  • I rolled the burgers in panko breadcrumbs for extra crunch.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Stollen spirals and other festive gift goodies

Stollen spirals - really just festive Chelsea buns I guess...

BBC Good Food recipe

Take 1 (test run, not a gift):

All went fine except I crammed too many in the tin and the middle ones were too doughy. Next time space them out better/use more tins. Also use more fruit, and slice the marzipan rather than using a big wodge in the middle.

Take 2:

Made these dairy free by subbing in coconut oil for butter, and soya milk for the milk. Not a deliberate choice, just what I had in the house to make them for a dairy-intolerant recipient. Also made the changes as above, and happened to use more sultanas and cranberries, no mixed peel, no nuts, and no icing, purely for time reasons. They fit perfectly, with room to expand, at 12 to my big roasting tin, with the remainder (I hesitate to say rejects) in a smaller tin. The 12 were frozen as soon as they were cool, defrosted in the car while travelling, reheated in a low oven for half an hour or so, and hoovered up in no time, so this recipe is definitely a keeper!

Take 3:

Easterised as follows: soak the fruit (a sultana/cranberry/cherry mix) in a mix of tea and amaretto; sprinkle it in the buns along with grated marzipan and dark chocolate chips. Serve warm so the marzipan and chocolate are a bit gooey.

German cinnamon star biscuits

Outdoor Chics recipe

These went OK but cooked too quickly in my oven at 200°C, so were a bit toasty. They have a chewy macaroony texture. I put allspice in the icing, as I'd run out of cinnamon, and some lemon zest. The icing was very sticky to apply, and I also found the mixture a bit crumbly and liable to get stuck in the points of the star cutter,

Nigella's bar nuts


Sweet, salty, spicy, herby roasted nuts. Yum. Again, made with coconut oil not butter - no difference.

Ginger cupcakes

A Jamie Oliver recipe

I was a bit worried by the amount of oil in these but they didn't come out greasy at all. Would be good with some sort of spicy dark chocolate topping.