Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Spiced winter root vegetable cake

Hmm, sounds appealing, huh? It's delicious, honestly! Basically you can make this with either carrots or parsnips. If you want to try other root veg, you're on your own (but let me know how it turns out if you're brave enough!) It's a lovely seasonal winter cake.

I got this from the Moosewood Book of Desserts, and they say it's originally a USA pioneer recipe, which is why you have no perishable ingredients like dairy, eggs or fat. This makes it vegan, and moderately healthy but remember fat-free can still be calorific... especially if you use the full whack of sugar. The recipe is very easy as long as you plan ahead (and maybe have a food processor to do the grating!). It's American, so all in cups - I reckon 2 cups of grated veg is about 3 large carrots or 2 med-large parsnips. I keep meaning to weigh the ingredients myself next time I make it, but always get halfway through before remembering... (1 cup = 8 fluid ounces in a measuring jug if you don't have any measuring cups, or try this site to convert to grams for specific ingredients.)

  • 2 cups (packed) finely grated carrots or parsnips
  • 0.75-1 cup packed brown sugar [original amount in the recipe was 1.5 cups but I found it too sweet]
  • 1.75 cups water
  • 1 cup sultanas or other dried fruit (chopped to sultana size). Sultanas are great, but I also like apricots with carrots, and cranberries seem to go well with parsnips, but you could use dates, figs, whatever you have lurking. A small amount of candied ginger, finely chopped, can be a nice addition.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.25 tsp ground cloves
  • 0.5 tsp ground nutmeg or fresh grated
  • 0.5 tsp ground ginger, or 1-2 tsp fresh grated ginger
    [be a little heavy handed with the spices if you want more of a winter warmer gingerbread effect, but go easy on the cloves, tiger]
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Combine the carrots, sugar, water, fruit (plus fresh ginger, if using) and vanilla in a saucepan - bring this to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for >1hr or overnight. All the fruit plumps up and the flavours mingle. Yum!

Preheat oven to 300F / 150C / Gas 2. Grease and flour a 9-10" pan, or put cases in a 12x muffin tin.
Combine the dry ingredients (flour, spices, salt, baking soda and powder) in a bowl. Stir the carrot mix into the dry mix just until no dry traces are left. Pour the combined mix into the pan, and bake until firm/springy and a skewer comes out more or less clean (you want it to be moist, but cooked) - about 1 hr for a cake or roughly 30 mins for muffins I think (keep an eye on them).

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 mins, then on a rack. Optionally, poke a few holes in the cake while warm and drizzle a lemon/orange sugar syrup over the top. If you don't need the cake to be vegan, cream cheese based icing/frosting is decadent but occasionally called for :) (Cream cheese, icing sugar, citrus zest/juice or spices to taste - just make sure the cake is fully cool before spreading it.) But to be honest, this cake is good just as it is.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Dill roasted salmon with new potatoes

Searching for inspiration before going shopping, Delicious magazine came up with the goods.


  • 500g baby new potatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Half a red onion, thinly sliced into rings
  • 2 skinless salmon fillets
  • Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
  • Handful chopped fresh dill


Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan170°C/gas 5. Put the potatoes in a large roasting tin with the olive oil and some sea salt. Roast for 15 minutes, then scatter over the onion and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Turn the oven temperature up to 220°C/fan200°C/gas 7 and nestle the salmon fillets between the potatoes and onions. Drizzle over the orange juice and sprinkle with the orange zest, dill and a good grinding of black pepper.

Roast for 8–10 minutes, until nicely browned and cooked through. Serve 1 fillet per person, with steamed or stir-fried greens.

Didn't have an onion (list making not my strong point) - not the end of the world, but caramelised in the orange juice it would have been a nice addition.

Apple rescue

A few sad apples in the fruit bowl, half a pack of butter to use, and some eggs... apple cake, mmm :)

Who better to turn to than Delia? Spiced apple muffin cake.


  • 12 oz (350 g) Bramley apples (weight after peeling and coring), chopped into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes
  • 4 oz (110 g) butter
  • 10 oz (275 g) plain flour
  • 1 level tablespoon plus 1 level teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ level teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 level teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ whole nutmeg, grated
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3 oz (75 g) golden caster sugar
  • 6 fl oz (175 ml) milk
For the pecan streusel topping:
  • 2 oz (50 g) pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 3 oz (75 g) self-raising flour
  • 3 oz (75 g) demerara sugar
  • 1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 oz (25 g) soft butter
  • 1 tbsp cold water


Melt the butter and sieve the flour, all the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and grated nutmeg into a bowl.

Whisk the eggs, sugar and milk together, then whisk in the melted butter. Sieve the flour mixture (again) into the egg mixture and fold it gently until just mixed. Now fold in the chopped apple and then spoon the mixture into the tin.

To make the streusel add the flour, sugar and cinnamon and rub the butter in with your fingertips. Sprinkle in the nuts and 1 tablespoon cold water, then press the mixture loosely together. Spoon it over the surface of the cake, then bake on the centre shelf of the oven for about 1¼ hours, until it feels springy in the centre.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 30 minutes then finish on a rack.

The only mistake I made was to omit the water from the streusel, because it wasn't on Delia's ingredient list (I have added it). So I have a dusty crumble topped cake instead!

Something different

A friend lent me a Patrick Holford cook book - not to follow the diet, but just for a few different recipes. We tried:

Chicken with creamy tomato sauce: bake chicken breasts on cherry tomatoes, at the end remove the chicken and stir some creme fraiche into the tomatoes to make a sauce. Delicious, and would be better (OK, and more calorific) with more flavoursome chicken thighs. We broke the Holford principles by having it with mashed potatoes and braised cabbage. But a good easy recipe.

Smoked mackerel and lentil kedgeree: basically make a dhal with red lentils (225g) and an onion, turmeric and curry powder plus stock (690ml), then add flaked smoked mackerel and quartered boiled eggs. The dhal was a bit runny but only because I let it get a bit burnt on the bottom and then added more water to rescue it. With the stock and the mackerel it was a bit salty. Next time I would pay closer attention and stir it more to end up with a thicker dhal, and add some fresh coriander. And again, contrary to the low carb idea, it would be yummy with naan bread...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Plum and cinnamon slice

Another one from Hannah Miles' Cakes and Cookies book. I made it the other week to take to some friends and since a) it was a success and b) the pastry was on offer and I got 2 blocks, I've made it again :)
  • 500g block puff pastry
  • 4 tbsp ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 100g marzipan, chilled in the freezer and then grated
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 10 plums, halved and stoned
  • 55g flakes almonds
  • 2 tbsp clear honey
  • milk for glazing

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Roll the pastry out to 20 x 30cm, 5mm thick and place it on a baking tray. Score a line 1-2cm from the edge, without cutting all the way through the pastry.

Mix the ground almonds, icing sugar and oil into a smooth paste. Spread it inside the lines on the pastry and sprinkle on the marzipan and the cinnamon. Place the plum halves on top, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with the almonds. Brush the edges of the tart with the milk.

Bake for 25-30 minutes - the pastry should be golden and the plums tender. Leave to cool on the tray and then cut into eight.

So, how did it turn out? I love this recipe. The plums are soft and the pastry edges and almonds are crispy, the sweet marzipan and honey pair up well with the slightly tart fruit, and the cinnamon gives it a lovely autumny warmth. On round 2 I put cinnamon in the ground almonds/sugar mixture, and also some extra oil to make the paste easier to spread (about half a tbsp is enough). I needed more than 10 plums (a dozen - and then I had to creatively flatten them to take up more space!) but even slightly underripe ones sweeten up perfectly.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Pork with parsnips and fennel

Waitrose Kitchen magazine, October 2010.

  • 3 parsnips, peeled, cored, cut in wedges
  • 1 med-large bulb fennel, thinly sliced
  • 12 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 2 pork neck steaks
  • 200ml low-alcohol cider
  • few sprigs thyme

Place the vegetables in a roasting pan with the cider, and roast at 220C for 5 mins.
Place the pork on top, season, and roast for a further 30 mins at 200C.
To serve, place the meat on the veg and pour over the juices. Serve with steamed vegetables (we did savoy cabbage) or salad.


The roasted parsnips were a little dry. Next time I would spray with oil before roasting, or baste in the cider. The shallots were lovely and sweet, though.
The pork was tender but needed a bit of oomph. I was thinking of mixing some wholegrain mustard with a little cider and maybe even marinading them for a few hours. Maybe honey too, but the cider is pretty sweet. I don't know why they specified low-alcohol cider; perhaps I would try another one next time.
Apple wedges could go nicely in the vegetable mix as well.

Chicken and vegetable one pot

Dinner the other night was kind of based on this recipe for one-pot chicken pilaf from BBC Good Food - but with so many tweaks it's only a distant cousin really.

I did at least use chicken thighs! Veg-wise I used green beans, broccoli, onion and mushrooms. All fine, but I also chucked in brown rice rather than white... which needs more cooking... which pulps the veg a bit, sadly. Next time, part cook the rice first. Rather than a bog standard curry powder I used garam masala, turmeric, and crushed coriander and cumin seeds.

Otherwise, a great one-pot dinner, easy to double up.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Breakfast bars - easy, flexible, healthy, tasty....

...and not just for breakfast! I love these, and make lots of different variations depending what's in the cupboard. They are great for taking along on walks and for re/fuelling before or after exercise. They're about 200 cals each if you make 16 and are relatively low in refined sugar and fat.

  • 2oz/60g butter, at room temperature (or less, or even none)
  • 2oz/60g light brown sugar (or less, depending on fruit/juice used)
  • 6oz/180g porridge oats (regular work better than jumbo)
  • 6oz/180g Grape Nuts cereal
  • 8-12oz/240-360g dried fruit, nuts and seeds*
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 8oz/240ml fluid (cold black or herbal/fruit tea, milk, fruit juice). May need a little more when mixing but start with this much.
  • 1 good teaspoon mixed spice or other spice
*I've used pretty much anything here! Big fat sultanas, dates, apricots, figs, mango, cranberries, cherries (dried or even glace), candied peel and preserved ginger; pumpkin, sunflower, poppy and linseeds; flaked almonds, chopped walnuts, pecans or any other nuts; chocolate chips (just a few!). Just not all at once...

Try matching the fruit and nuts and spices to the fluid used. Cranberries and sour cherries (soaked in red grape juice or red fruit tea) and mango (orange juice) all go well with dark chocolate chips, and there's always classic date and walnut (apple juice or tea). You might want to reduce the amount of sugar if you are using sweet fruit and soaking it in sweet juice like orange or apple.


Ahead of time if possible (1hr or more - overnight is ideal), place any dried fruit to soak in the fluid, to plump it up.

Grease a baking dish approx 9" by 9" (or use silicone without greasing). Oven to 180C.

Mix all dry ingredients together. Add the eggs and the fruit with its soaking fluid. Mix, pause to let the fluid soak into the oats/grape nuts, then if needed add more fluid until a moist and spreadable mixture is obtained. Add the butter (if using) in little dots, a few at at time, and mix well.

Put into the pan, spreading into an even layer, and bake for about 25-30 minutes until firm and springy in the centre. Cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes and then on a rack. I cut a 9" x 9" panful into 16 squares and find it cuts more easily when cool.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Oat cookies and cranberry bread

I've been watching the Great British Bake-Off, and am feeling inspired to do something a bit more than the same old breakfast bars (although I still love them!). Might have to try some classics this week!

Spiced syrup oat cookies from Hannah Miles' Big Book of Cakes and Cookies. It's a pretty easy to remember:

  • 115g each of butter, caster sugar, plain flour and oats
  • 1 tsp each of baking powder, mixed spice and cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsb golden syrup

Cream the butter and sugar, and beat in the egg and syrup. Sift in the dry ingredients and add the oats. Fold in, mixing well.

Divide into 18-25 balls, spread between 2 baking trays, leaving spreading room. Press down a little if you want - my mixture was quite soft and didn't need this.

Bake 12-15 mins at 180C/350F. Larger cookies will be domed and more cakey in the middle, smaller ones will be flatter and crispier.

These are tasty cookies but I'm not sure I would identify them as having syrup in if I didn't know. I wonder whether melting the butter would allow you to use more syrup and less sugar (maybe with a touch more baking powder to compensate for the lack of air from creaming).

Update 18th Sept: A different method:
Melt the butter with 60g of sugar and 6tbsp syrup. Allow to cool. Sift dry ingredients (except oats) together, pour in cooled butter/sugar/syrup and mix well. Add oats and egg and mix again. Cool further in fridge to firm up. Dollop onto baking sheets (I used silicon liners so no greasing) and bake. After 12 minutes mine were a bit too brown on the edges, and they had spread more than the other method, but taste more syrupy. I suppose they are flapjack biscuits!

On to the cranberries...

I've had bargain fresh cranberries in my freezer since the new year. Time to do something with them. I went for cranberry bread from Jared Folkmann - I think I have made it before, but I didn't blog it (tut tut!). I've converted the amounts into metric (cups of butter - not useful!).

  • 360g (3 cups) plain wholemeal flour
  • 300g (1.5 cups) sugar ( ised half golden caster, half light muscovado)
  • 2.25 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 0.75 teaspoon baking soda
  • 170g (0.75 cup) butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1.5 teaspoons orange peel, grated
  • 270ml (1.125) cups orange juice
  • 300g (3 cups) fresh cranberries, chopped

I deviated from the original recipe because I wasn't sure about "cutting" the butter/sugar together. I creamed the butter and sugar as best I could (as with a lot of North American recipes, there is quite a lot of sugar), adding the eggs to loosen it and beating well. I sifted in a cup of the flour with the other dry ingredients, mixed it, then added in the other 2 cups alternating with the orange juice to keep the mixture workable. When it was mixed I stirred in the cranberries, and added some candied mixed peel I had lurking in the pantry. The cranberries were frozen and made the mixture really stiffen up, but it actually made it easier to portion out - I was able to get 15 muffins and a loaf out of the mixture.

The recipe says to bake for 1 hour (or so) at 180C/350F. I had an idiot moment and set my oven to grill... (duh) but the muffins were on the shelf below and they had 25 mins on grill and another 20 in the oven "proper". The cake had the 25 mins of grilling, got a bit toasted on top, and was then covered in foil and ovened for another 45 minutes - It's OK, a bit dense, but tasty enough and I'd do it again with the oven set properly :)

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Butternut squash with lentils and feta

This was surprisingly tasty given the utter lack of seasoning, spices etc. It was thrown together while I was doing other things.

Wash and halve a butternut squash (no need to peel) and scrape out the seeds and some of the flesh (save for another recipe).
Place it on a baking tray at ~150C for ~1h-1h30 depending on size.

Finely chop a couple of cloves of garlic and an onion.
Fry slowly until well softened but not browned (use water once the oil is gone), about 20 minutes.
Add a can (drained) of green lentils and heat through (about 5 minutes)
Add half a pack of Feta, cubed, and mix in.

Take the squash out of the oven and add half the lentil mix on top of each.


Sunday, 11 July 2010

Gooseberry meringue pie

After the lovely local gooseberry fairy made a surprise doorstep delivery, I thought I should do something more interesting and summery than a crumble or pie. I found this:

Gooseberry meringue pie (Waitrose recipe)

3 egg whites
175g caster sugar

900g cooking gooseberries, topped and tailed
150g caster sugar
3 tbsp cornflour
3 egg yolks

As ever, I made a few edits. I only had 550g gooseberries, so I cut the sugar for them down to 100g. I should have also reduced the eggs to 2, which would have had a knock-on adjustment of the sugar in the meringue to ~180g. As I failed to make this adjustment, there was a bit much filling for the case.

Oh yes, the case was another adjustment as it was too hot to faff about making pastry/I don't have a pie tin, so I bought an 8" sweet pastry shell from Waitrose. However, it wasn't really wide or tall enough for this recipe (thank goodness I didn't have the full 900g of gooseberries!) so it came out looking all meringue with some gooseberry overspill. Moral: make your own.

  1. Put the gooseberries in a pan with 2 tbsp water and 150g caster sugar. Cover and gently heat, stirring, until tender. Some will stay whole; some will become mushy. Strain the mixture through a sieve, set the gooseberries aside and put the strained liquid back into the saucepan. Simmer this until it has reduced to about 200ml. Mix 5 tbsp of this reduced liquor with the cornflour, until smooth. Pour into the saucepan and add the drained gooseberries. Bring to the boil and stir to thicken. Add the egg yolks and stir well to combine. Remove from the heat immediately.
  2. Pour the mixture into the pastry case and leave to cool. With an electric whisk, beat the egg whites in a large, clean bowl until you have medium peaks (when you hold up the beaters the mixture should be firm but the peaks just slightly droop over). Add 1 tbsp caster sugar and beat this in, then continue in the same way, whisking and adding the sugar until you have a stiff, glossy mixture. Spoon this over the tart, making sure that you cover the rim of the pastry and don’t leave any gaps. Bake at 190°C/gas 5 for 25 minutes.

No edits to the method - wow!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Bakewell experiment

I'm going to be making some cakes for a charity afternoon tea later this month, and so am experimenting with a few new recipes to go with some old favourites. I saw a recipe some time ago which used grated marzipan in a cake batter, and thought that would make a nice bakewell-style cake. But I can't find that recipe, so I tried adapting Apple marzipan cake from UKTV Food.

As I went through the original recipe I found it a bit unclear and difficult in places. Flour and sugar in ml instead of grams is just odd, but seems to have worked. As to the method, I had no chance of "whisking" grated marzipan (which had lumped together) and softened butter. Melted butter, maybe. Then it says to put the egg yolks in the bowl with the marzipan and butter, but do you mix that together immediately or wait for the next ingredients? And even with the yolks, the marzipan mix is claggy and stiff enough that "folding in" the egg whites later is amost impossible without flattening them in the process.

I also (through not reading properly) beat all the air out of the first lot of egg whites after adding the sugar, so had to repeat it, but with only ~60ml of sugar as that's all I had left.

So, a good start but it needs a bit of tweaking I think. Here's my modified recipe...

  • 250g marzipan, chilled and grated
  • 200ml plain flour, sifted
  • 150g butter, liberally softened
  • 60ml caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp seedless raspberry jam
  • icing sugar
  • cold water
  • 6 glace cherries, halved

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C, and line a muffin pan with 12 cases.

Mix together the grated marzipan and butter, and the vanilla extract. Separate the three eggs and combine the yolks into the marzipan mix; reserve the egg whites.

Sift the flour and the baking powder, plus a pinch of salt, into the marzipan mixture, and mix well. It will probably be quite stiff. Persevere :)

Using a clean whisk and bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold in the caster sugar gently, being careful not to knock any air out of the whites. Fold the resulting mixture into the the marzipan mixture, bit by bit. It's not easy but just take it slowly and keep cutting and folding. You might be able to mix an early spoonful in a bit more vigorously to loosen the marzipan mixture - you sacrifice a little of the air in the egg white initially, but I think you will keep more in the long run.

Divide half the mixture between the cases and make a small well in each. Place a blob of raspberry jam (about half a teaspoon) in each and cover with the rest of the mixture.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Ice with plain icing (icing sugar/water) and top with half a glace cherry.

Well, the following day, the verdict is that it's worth the faff! These are delicious sweet, almondy cakes with a nice crumb. They did not need more sugar.

Unfortunately the jam has leaked to the bottom in each case - I am not sure how I can stop this. Perhaps the batter is so light with the egg whites that the jam just sinks? Next time I will try baking them without the jam, then taking out a core, jamming them, and replacing the core before icing them. Not such a "surprise", but better I think.

The cakes only just fill the cases, so perhaps making 10 rather than 12 would be good if I don't manage to increase the volume of batter by retaining the air in the egg whites better next time

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Rich flapjacks and quick vegan chocolate cake

A couple of quick recipes I did for the cake stall at the triathlon club's duathlon today:

Date and walnut flapjack - or any variations!
(based on a plain recipe from a member's post on the old Delia Smith forums, now deleted)

  • 250g butter (I use salted)
  • 75g light muscovado sugar
  • 75g dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 tbsb (ish) golden syrup (about 40g)
  • 2 tbsp (ish) treacle (about 40g)
    I measure the syrup and treacle into the pan with the sugars and butter, so weighing is easier than measuring spoons. If you use a spoon then oil it first so the syrup/treacle won't stick.
  • 400g oats (but see below)
  • 150g (ish) dates
  • 100g (ish) walnuts
  • splash of boiling water
  1. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a large saucepan and allow to boil for a couple of minutes.
  2. Stir this mixture into the oats. If it seems too dry, don't worry, wait a few minutes and let the liquid soak the oats, and stir again. If it's too dry (can depend on your oats), quickly heat a bit more syrup and stir it in.
  3. Press just over half the mixture into a 9" (or so) square tin.
  4. Roughly chop the dates and place into a saucepan with a splash of water from the kettle (100ml or so, but it will depend on your dates). Heat gently and stir until you get a jammy consistency.
  5. Spread the "jam" onto the flapjack layer.
  6. Blitz the walnuts in a food processor, or chop finely, and stir into the remaining flapjack mix.
  7. Spread the walnut flapjack roughly on top of the date layer.
  8. Bake at 190C for 15-20 minutes, depending how crispy you like the top.
  9. Cut into 16 pieces.
These went down really well, and were moist in the middle but just a little toasted on the top and at the edges. It's really up to you how much date "jam" you make and how nutty you make the topping. I also used a bit more than the stated 2 tbsp each of syrup and treacle.

The original recipe said 500g oats but I find this a bit dense. You can vary it according to taste, if you want stickier flapjacks then go for 350ish, or increase the amount for more solid ones.

Of course, you can vary the filling/inclusions as you like, and it doesn't have to be sandwich style. Just beware that chocolate chip flapjacks don't really work as the hot syrup mix melts the chips when you mix them in... but they do work well sandwich style (half the oats, 100g dark choc chips sprinkled over, then the rest of the oats). The choc chip sandwich goes nicely with crystallised ginger (finely diced) and a teaspoon of ground ginger in the oat mix. Grated (chilled/frozen) or sliced marzipan in the middle and chopped cherries in the mix is another winning combination.

Six-minute chocolate cake
From the Moosewood Book of Desserts

  • 1.5 cups plain flour
  • Half cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Two thirds cup sugar (I used golden caster)
  • Half cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water or coffee
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar

  1. Mix the dry ingredients together.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients (except the vinegar) together.
  3. Mix the wet and dry ingredients and beat until smooth.
  4. Add the vinegar, stir well until just mixed (work quickly - the longer you take and the more you stir, the more air you lose from the mix).
  5. Divide between 12 cake/muffin cases in a tin.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 190C until springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.
For an even quicker cake, don't faff about with muffin cases but bake in a larger tin (20-25 minutes) - or even mix the ingredients directly in the tin. Very little washing up - excellent! These cakes are vegan and very tasty, and wonderfully light in texture. The mixture is strong enough to hold chocolate chips without them sinking, and you can do all the usual stuff with the finished cakes, like butterfly buns (with vegan spread "butter"cream if needed) or coring out a little space for some marmalade or cherry jam.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Pork terrine and cranberry chutney

A tasty starter or simple lunch, spiced up with some chutney that handily uses the fresh cranberries being sold off after Christmas...

Coarse pork and herb terrine
(Delicious magazine)

Aiming to serve six rather than twelve, and I didn't have the recipe while shopping so things, especially the meat component, varied from the recipe. I used half a medium onion and two large cloves of garlic, three reasonably lean, medium-cut pork loin steaks, and 250g sausagemeat with cranberries and bramley apple, plus 225g streaky bacon with Christmas spices, and no liver. I chopped the steaks coarsely in the food processor, and used all the bacon bar two rashers to line a loaf tin. I had no mace and no sage, used 2tbsp rum (no brandy!) and no port or white wine.

The hard thing was finding a tray deep enough to place the loaf tin in water to half its height. Everything else worked well and the terrine went down really well as a starter at New Year. It served six comfortably, and another two for lunch as leftovers :)

  • 350g shallots, halved
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 900g rindless boned belly of pork or pork shoulder (ask your butcher to mince or dice it for you)
  • 325g streaky bacon rashers
  • 100g pork liver, diced
  • 100g good-quality pork sausage meat
  • 120ml dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp port
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbes de Provence
  • ¼ tsp each ground allspice, ground cloves and ground mace
  1. Put the shallots and garlic into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the chopped shallots and garlic and fry gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned. Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. If you haven’t asked your butcher to mince or dice the pork for you, chop it into pieces, put it into the food processor and, using the pulse button, whizz until it’s a coarse paste. Transfer to the bowl with the onions and garlic. Chop 100g of the streaky bacon and add to the food processor with the liver. Pulse to coarsely chop, then add to the mixing bowl, too. Add all the other ingredients to the bowl except the remaining 225g bacon. Using your hands, mix it all together well.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Line a 28.5 x 13 x 6cm loaf tin or 1.5-litre terrine dish with the reserved bacon, leaving the edges overhanging. Fill with the mixture and fold the overhanging bacon back over the top. Cover the loaf tin or terrine with a lid or some foil, put it into a small, deep roasting tin and pour hot water into the tin to come halfway up the sides of the loaf tin or terrine. Bake for 1 ½ hours. Uncover and cook for a further 15 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.
  5. Remove the tin or terrine from the hot water and tip off any liquid on the surface of the terrine. Set aside to cool. Cover the top of the terrine with cling film then with foil-covered cardboard, cut to fit inside the rim of the tin or dish. Put a few cans along the top to compress. Chill overnight.
  6. The next day, remove the cans and cardboard and, if cooked in a loaf tin, remove from the tin.
  7. Serve in slices with chutneys, pickled onions, red onion marmalade, small gherkins and crusty French bread. The terrine will keep well in the fridge for 5 days.

Apricot and cranberry chutney

This was very easy to make. I reduced the sugar a little to 75g, but on the first tasting (while still warm) there was a distinct vinegary burn upon swallowing, and I stirred in about a tablespoon of runny honey. As this was to take elsewhere for serving later, it got to sit for a couple of hours, and mellowed very nicely. A great match for the slightly rich terrine.

  • 50g (2 oz) diced dried apricots
  • 350g (12 oz) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 125g (4 oz) sultanas
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 250ml (8 fl oz) water
  • 150g (5 oz) caster sugar
  • 125ml (4 fl oz) cider vinegar

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the apricots, cranberries, sultanas, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves.
  2. In a medium saucepan, boil water and sugar, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Add the dried fruit mixture and vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Parsnip and cauliflower curry

A nice contrast to Christmas food - comforting, but not rich, and plenty of veg.

Vegetable curry with parsnip and cauliflower

I omitted the (nasty, yukky, slimy) okra that would have been in the curry kit, and guessed at 2 medium chillies, a lime, a thumb of ginger, half a medium bunch of coriander for the rest of its contents. Surprised there was no garlic. Very tasty, definitely one to make again.

  • 1 Waitrose Fresh Indian Curry Kit *
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 3 tbsp Patak's Korma Curry Paste
  • 400ml can Bart Spices Coconut Milk
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 cauliflower, about 950g, cut into large florets
  • 1 large parsnip, about 300g, peeled and diced into 2cm chunks
* Kits no longer on sale - they contained onion, ginger, chillies, okra, fresh coriander and a lime.

  1. Prepare the curry kit ingredients: cut the onion into chunks, peel and finely chop the ginger, and deseed and finely chop the chillies. Top and tail the okra, cut in half then wash and dry thoroughly.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, wide pan or wok with a tight-fitting lid. Add the ginger, half the chilli and the okra. Stir-fry over a high heat for 4 minutes, or until just starting to soften, then season to taste. Place the okra mixture on a plate and reserve.
  3. Return the pan to the heat and add the korma curry paste and onion. Reduce to a medium heat and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Add the coconut milk and ground almonds and stir in the cauliflower and parsnip. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender. Add the reserved okra and cook 1 minute to heat through.
  4. Roughly chop the coriander from the curry kit, and cut the lime in half lengthways. Squeeze the juice of half the lime over the curry and scatter with the remaining chilli and coriander. Serve with the remaining lime cut into wedges, and naan bread.


You can't go wrong with chocolate, cream and booze.

Boozy bitter chocolate truffles
(Maison du Chocolat, via Chez Pim)

I didn't chop the chocolate into small enough pieces and had to put it and the cream over some simmering water to melt it fully. I used amaretto as the alcohol, and rolled half the truffles in ground almonds, half in cocoa. And 30-40 truffles? Ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha. I think I got 20.

8oz very dark, very bitter chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream [= whipping cream in the UK*]
1/8 to 1/4 cup armagnac or rum

Chop up the 8oz chocolate very small, and place in a medium glass bowl. In a small pan, bring the cream to a boil, then remove from heat immediately and pour it over the chocolate. Let stand for a couple of minutes to melt.

Stir the chocolate and cream until well incorporated. Add the alcohol, mix well. Chill until firm.

Put the cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop up slightly less than the tablespoon of chocolate and gently roll it into a ball, then coat it in the cocoa.

* searching for the UK equivalent to heavy cream led me to this post and an interesting blog about UK/US language differences.

Christmas spice cookies

Not a new one - I made these last year.

Christmas spice biscuits
(Nigella, via Food Glorious Food)

I substituted treacle for the honey, giving a slightly darker flavour. The only difference to the method was a lack of a food processor. I rubbed the butter into the flour/spices by hand, as for crumble, then added the sugar and went from there. I forgot the caution about not adding all the egg/honey, and had to add quite a bit more flour as it was far too sticky.

This would make good gingerbread people as well, just roll a bit thicker, omit the black pepper and up the ginger.

Also, consider doubling the recipe right off. This doesn't make many at the required ~1cm thickness, and you might as well make it worth getting the food processor out!

  • 150g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 50g soft butter
  • 50g soft dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • royal icing

  1. Pre-heat oven to 170C. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper or non-stick baking sheets.
  2. Whizz together flour and spices in a food processor. Add butter and sugar and whizz until you have fine breadcrumb consistency.
  3. Beat together the egg with the honey. With the motor running, slowly add the egg mixture. Go carefully as you may not need to add it all - stop when a dough is just formed.
  4. Chill the mixture for 10 minutes or so.
  5. Liberally dust the work surface with flour and roll out the dough to 3-4mm. (Go thicker if you like, but they may need extra baking time.) Cut out your favourite festive shapes. Work quite quickly and set the biscuits on the tin.
  6. For decorations: Using a skewer, cut a small hole just below the top of each biscuit so that you'll be able to tie ribbon through later for hanging on the tree.
  7. Bake for around 20 minutes, or until the biscuits are no longer dough-ey in the middle. Watch them to be sure the edges don't burn. Transfer biscuits to a wire rack and allow to cool. Mix up the royal icing according to the sugar packet's instructions. Spoon into a piping bag and decorate the biscuits once cool.
  8. Be patient and leave the icing to set. Once set, wait another ten minutes or so (just to be sure) and carefully thread pretty ribbon through the holes.

Christmas goodies

OK, so I forgot about this blog ;)

Christmas has seen a few new recipes for me, so here they are. First up, cookies:

White chocolate and cranberry cookies
(UKTV Food)

This is an adaptable recipe - I made two batches of white chocolate and cranberry, and two of dark chocolate and (candied) ginger. I added cocoa powder and ground ginger to the mix for the second variety. Also tried some with Werther's chewy toffees mixed in, but they melted/ran all over the place and stuck badly to the baking tray. (Cookies still edible, but not presentable!) I would try them once more, forming the balls and then poking half a toffee into the top of each one, so it can't stick or go anywhere when it melts.

I made two slight amendments to the recipe, using just 75g golden caster sugar (they were plenty sweet enough) and using one whole medium egg instead of just 1-2 yolks. Thanks to the melted butter, the cookie mixture is quite greasy to handle. I tried adding a little extra flour but then the cookies didn't spread as well (and had to be squished with a fork halfway through baking). The mix as given makes 18-24 cookies depending on size.

They go soft and cakey rather than crunchy or gooey, although they taste good and have some added interest from the oats and ground almonds. I think I will keep searching for the perfect cookie base recipe...

I'm going to paste the recipes into my posts here from now on, to guard against the links expiring in the future.

  • 150g butter
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50 g ground almonds
  • 50 g porridge oats
  • 50 g dried cranberries, raisins, sultanas or currants
  • 50g brown sugar and 50g caster sugar, or 100g demerara sugar
  • 100g white chocolate, cut into chunks
  • 1 large egg yolk, or 2 small egg yolks
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.
  2. Melt the butter, and allow to cool.
  3. Sift the flour and the bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl.
  4. Add the ground almonds, oats, dried fruit, soft brown sugar, caster sugar and the chocolate chunks and mix well.
  5. Mix the cooled melted butter with the egg yolk and pour into the dry ingredients, stirring to combine.
  6. With your hands, form into walnut-sized balls and arrange slightly apart from each other on 2 baking trays.
  7. Gently flatten the biscuits slightly and place in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden.
  8. Allow to cool a little on the trays before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling.