Spring is most definitely here and our pear tree, despite having had a massive haircut, looks like it is going to deliver again this autumn!
I’m already thinking about Pear Cake!
My mum had a bit of a marmalade making session last week and gave us several jars of her delicious marmalade to enjoy. Thanks Mamma! Putting the marmalade in the cupboard, I came across a jar of my own marmalade from last year which I decided to use up quickly so that I could get onto enjoying the fresh batch more quickly. I decided to make a quick cake and at the same time try out a new baking tin I had just bought – well…why not?!
A BBC Good Food recipe caught my eye, I substituted a mild olive oil for the butter which (I think) makes this cake suitable for vegans as it contains no egg. The vinegar in the recipe sounds odd, but don’t leave it out as it helps the cake to rise and it won’t taste of vinegar, I promise!
Ingredients (to fit a baking tray approx 28 x 23 cm)
Heat the oven to 160c/140c (fan)/gas 3 and line your baking tray. The original recipe uses a 900g/2lb loaf tin and cooks it for 60 minutes.
Place the flour, spices, sugar, zests, dried fruits and a pinch of salt into a bowl and mix. Put the oil (or butter) into a saucepan with 2 tbsp of the marmalade and melt. Mix well, add the milk and then pour over the dry ingredients. Add the vinegar and mix well.
Pour the mixture into your prepared baking tin and bake for about 45 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
While the cake is baking heat the remaining marmalade with 2 tablespoons of water and the icing sugar. Pour this over the cake when it comes out of the oven then sprinkle it with brown sugar and leave to cool in the tin. You’ll end up with a delicious, citrusy, sticky cake which best pal Ria suggested would also be great served warm with custard. Now you’re talking….
Cranberries are not just for cranberry sauce and cranberry juice! And we all know they’re good for us, don’t we?! I love that sour taste of Cranberries, Big Man…less so. Oh dear. But he loves cake, so a perfect compromise is to make cake with cranberries in it. I do love a Win/Win cooking situation.
This is a cake for people who are not very good with measuring ingredients as they can find the scales but not the old fashioned weights that go with it. It’s good for folk who have trouble finding the mixer or the electric whisk, who then accidentally turn the oven off for 5 minutes while baking a cake thinking they’ve turned the hob off, then open the oven door to see why the light in the oven seems to have stopped working. Yes, that was me, but this cake is like the hardiest Marine in the Cake Corps – nothing can defeat it, it WILL turn out fine no matter how badly you treat it. You can even half drop the tin as you’re turning the cake out – oh yes, I did that too – but it’s probably going to be prettier if you leave that bit out.
Ingredients for one large cake (serves about 12 – 14 slices)
Grease and flour a large baking tin. I used an 11” bundt tin, but a 9” square tin would also work well. Set the oven to 175 degrees C.
Mix together the sugar, orange juice, eggs, yogurt and oil. If you can find your electric whisk, go ahead. If not, use a hand whisk with a bit of fury until all the ingredients are well blended.
Add the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon, then stir in the fruit and zest. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until the cake is pulling away from the sides of the tin, is browned on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
If you want to top it, mix 8 heaped teaspoons of sifted icing sugar with about 2-3 teaspoons of orange juice (add gradually) until you have a thick pouring paste, and drizzle over.
Make a pot of coffee, cut yourself a good slice of cake, put your feet up and relax…
For another olive oil cake recipe, take a look at my orange and raisin cake.
A pal and commenter, Lynn, asked if I would be posting some strawberry recipes as we are smack bang in the middle of strawberry season….of course, am happy to oblige! Regular readers though will know that I am not much of a dessert maker (the ever expanding waistline does not permit too many treats) so I usually pull together dishes that are quick and easy but delicious enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. Strawberries are also so good right now, they don’t need too much mucking about with.
For anyone who also signed up for the “throw it together and see what happens dessert class”, this one’s for you.
Ingredients (to serve 4-6)
Mix the strawberries with the icing sugar, cornflour and liqueur and set aside while you roll the pastry out into a circle. Place the pastry onto an oven tray or into a tin, I used a deep paella pan which worked beautifully!
Pile the strawberries into the middle of the pastry circle then fold the extra pastry in over the top to form a bowl shape. Brush the top of the pastry with egg yolk and sprinkle over some brown sugar.
Bake at 180 degrees C for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the strawberries are bubbling. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving – the cornflour will slightly thicken the juices. Serve with ice cream or cream whilst pretending to your impressed loved ones that it was really hard work to prepare.
Now please don’t send the dessert police round if this is not really an authentic semifreddo. I’ve just looked at the Wikipedia definition and it seems like it should have ice cream mixed in with the whipped cream. Oh dear, Chica taking shortcuts again.
Regular readers of this blog will probably have already noticed that I don’t post a huge number of dessert recipes. Mainly because I’m not very sweet toothed, and secondly because Big Man and I don’t really need to be eating too many naughty treats and generally stick to fruit and yogurt at the end of a meal.
But sometimes, yes sometimes, life calls for pudding and with some new pals round recently for supper, this was such an occasion. Obviously, after a long day of house renovation, I needed a meal which I could prepare in advance so that I could relax and enjoy the food and company.
The main course was Pollo Cacciatore, made the day before. Dessert was made the evening before, inspired by part of a programme presented by Nigella Lawson. I missed the detail of the recipe, so this is my version and it worked out perfectly. I am my own Domestic Goddess.
Ingredients (serves 6-8….well 4-6 in my house)
Beat the cream until is softly whipped (but not stiff). Finely chop the cold chocolate and add it to the cream with the liqueur then crumble in the meringue (break it up into small pieces). Mix gently with a large spoon until combined and then spoon it into your container. Cover with cling film and freeze until you are ready to serve. Take it out of the freezer a few minutes before you want to eat and slice it (I found it easiest with a bread knife) into portions.
I served mine with fresh raspberries, a raspberry coulis (made with one cup of raspberries and half a cup of icing sugar, cooked then sieved) and some flaked almonds. It’s not the most beautiful photo in the world, I apologise, but it was taken as I served it up after an evening of food and
wine conviviality, at about 10pm in an underlit kitchen.
Easy, delicious and very little effort. Perfect!
The days are getting shorter, the sun still shines most of the time but not with the intensity of summer. The air smells different, fresher, more invigorating. It’s time to finish off doing things you meant to do in summer and plan for the next few months.
Time to enjoy autumn fruits like prickly pears…
Big Man and I haven’t had the great summer we had hoped for in Spain this year. That’s the way life goes sometimes. You just have to accept it and move on. We hadn’t had a single chance to go to the beach, so at the end of last week we made it happen. Granted, we didn’t get down there until lunch time, but luck was on our side and a beachfront table at one of our favourite Chiringuitos (beach restaurants) became available as we arrived.
Perfect, time to relax with a bottle of chilled white wine, a mix of deep fried fish and some peppers and a plate of little pieces of grilled monkfish.
After a reviving coffee it was time for a gentle snooze down by the sea, listening to the waves and the distant sounds of murmered conversations.
What a difference a day makes, the next day Up the Mountain was grey and misty with low clouds lurking around the house.
A day that made me wish the blackberries here were still going strong, as they had been in England. A little bag of about 2 cups of blackberries had been picked on a seaside walk in England Down by the Sea and turned into a delicious autumn pudding.
Apple and Blackberry Pudding
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well, if the mixture is very stiff, add a tablespoon full of milk.
Mix the cake mix into the fruit and pour into an ovenproof dish. Bake at 180º for about 30 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre of the pudding comes out clean and the top is slightly browned.
Serve with cream and/or ice cream whilst making sure your dog does not sneak up on you and pinch a mouthful.
Yes, the sourdough madness continues. I hate to throw food away and whilst I can’t always use my sourdough starter, especially when I have to remove half to feed it, I am now finding ways to bring it into other recipes.
We’ve had bread, and pizza, so now it’s time for something sweet. I’ve noticed too that there’s not too much fat used in these recipes, and I tend to use olive oil rather than butter, so I’m finding lower fat alternatives which has been a bonus.
As I was playing around with my cake recipe, the lovely Teleri at Olives & Artichokes, very kindly weighed, measured, baked and posted a gorgeous almond cherry cake made with olive oil (I’d asked her about her baking!). Thanks Teleri, this one is being baked today Up the Mountain!
I found several recipes for cakes on line and decided to be brave and adapt, mix and match. What was the worst that could happen? The chickies would have had cake for breakfast. Luckily for us, and unluckily for them, my first attempt worked well, so no Cherry Chickie Cake this time.
The texture of the finished cake was somewhere between a sponge cake and a scone (US biscuit). We ate it cold and it was lovely, not dry at all and not heavy (which I was concerned about). I think this would also be good warmed slightly and served with cream or ice cream. Or both.
Ingredients (cake serves 8-10 slices)
Mix together the starter, the oil and the egg. Add the dry ingredients and mix in well and then add the cherries.
Put into a greased and floured cake time and bake for about 45 minutes at 180 degrees (until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the cake is lightly browned).
This cake doesn’t rise much, but my next experiment will be to make the batter with self raising flour and then leave it to rise to see how the texture of the cake varies. Oh the things I do for you….
Summer keeps taunting us here Up the Mountain. And then the grey and dismal part of Spring rears its head again. A bit like me, the weather has been neither here nor there.
Time for some summer cooking, we dragged out the barbecue ready to grill some sardines and pretend we were on the beach. Of course, in typical English weather fashion, the wind whipped up, the grey clouds sailed overhead and it all went pear shaped. Oh well, we turned on the oven which also took the chill off the house and all was well.
Ingredients to serve 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter
Simply place your sardines (or you could use herring or mackerel) in an ovenproof dish and place slices of orange and sprigs of mint between them. You could stuff them if you prefer. Sprinkle with salt and pimentón, drizzle a little oil over and any juices from the orange.
Bake on high for about 15 minutes until the juices from the sardines run clear. And at least you won’t have to worry about sand in your shoes….
Well, not just for Big Man, but for some dear friends who came to visit recently. Time for desserts, sitting around after a meal chatting until the candles burn down, sipping coffee and eating “just one more little piece” even though the waistband is straining a little.
To be honest, most of my girlfriends are not big dessert eaters. Not for any health or diet reasons, we’re just more fans of all things savoury. A good compromise was found once more in the pages of Jerusalem, the cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I decided to make Muttabaq, a delicious dessert made with layers of buttery filo pastry and filled with creamy cheese.
If you want a look at the original version, hope over to see how Chaise Longue of Olives and Artichokes made it. I decided to add a little Chica twist of my own.
Then my additions
Using half the packet of filo, place layers of pastry in a deep baking dish brushing with melted butter between layers. Cut off any edges that curl up the side of the dish. Mix together the cheese, orange rind and sugar and spread over the pastry. Sprinkle over the dates and walnuts and then place the remaining pastry over the top in layers, brushing again with butter as you go. Tuck the outside edges of the top pastry section under the bottom half, brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle over the pistachios. Cut into squares, without cutting right through to the bottom
Bake for25 mins approx. at 225 degrees (or a hot oven) until golden brown. Meanwhile make up a lemon sugar syrup using 250g sugar, 90mls of water and the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.
When the pastry comes out of the oven, pour over the sugar syrup (it seems like a lot but just keep going). Serve just warm but it’s also good cold.
To accompany the Muttabaq I made a Moroccan inspired dish of sliced oranges sprinkled with chopped mint, pomegranate seeds, rosewater, sugar and cinnamon. Very pretty and fresh.
We talked for hours, we reminisced, we laughed…now that’s what I call a perfect evening. And now I wish all of you and your loved ones peace and joy over Easter and I hope you all get to enjoy some wonderful food, time and laughter together.
Rest assured that despite the hard work, rubble and paint that is our life right now, we never go hungry! In fact, we even manage to do a little small scale entertaining and this dish was one I made when Best Pal Ria and her brother-in-law came to visit and see what we had been up to.
I was inspired to cook this dish after having seen a beautiful recipe from ChgoJohn, take a look at this beautiful Roast Loin of Pork with Fig Preserves.
It was a great dish as it can be prepared ahead and served hot or cold, leaving you time to catch up with your guests.
Use a long sharp knife to cut a slit through the middle of the pork loin (think of a hollow tube) so that you can then fill this with “stuffing”. Mix together the apricots and the juices, the pine nuts, the harissa and about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Season the mixture and use it to fill the pork loin.
Season the outside of the loin and rub a couple of teaspoons of oil into it. Place the meat into a deep dish, cover with a lid or tightly with foil and cook at a medium low heat for about 3-4 hours. Remove the meat from the juices (which you will save) and chill the meat. Don´t skip this step, it makes serving so much easier!
The next day, thinly slice the meat into rounds. Warm the sauce and reduce a little. If you want to serve the meat cold, serve the sauce separately. If you want to serve it warm, pour about a third of the sauce over the meat, cover with foil and put into a medium oven for about 20 minutes and serve the rest of the sauce on the side.
I served mine with cous cous with mint, lemon zest, pomegranate and pine nuts but we ate if before we remembered to take a photo!
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