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Vanilla Scented Apple and Sultana Cake

15 Dec

 

I’m a lazy cake baker. Probably because I’d generally prefer to eat something savoury or spicy. Even for dessert! But there are times when the cake baking urge takes over and I give in. Usually with very little grace and I bake something wonderfully simple like Banana Bread. Recently I came across a small portion of stewed apple in one of my periodic freezer tidy ups (Christmas is looming and I need to make space!). It was 150ml and I  suspect I had put it aside to eat with porridge over a couple of mornings.

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I guessed that the 4 small mashed ripe bananas in the banana bread recipe were probably about the same volume as the stewed apples, and ignoring all the Mary Berry warnings about fruit adding liquid to cakes and causing all sorts of potential hazards, I ploughed ahead regardless. I made a few small changes to the original recipe, cooked it at a slightly higher temperature, and voila,  a lovely light and fragrant cake. Sometimes you just have to push the rules to their limits.

The cake has the same moist and slightly dense texture of banana bread, very filling!

Ingredients (to fit a 9″ × 5″ lined loaf tin)

  • 100g of sultanas soaked in your favourite tea (I used a lovely rooibus with vanilla gifted to me by the even lovelier Mandy over at The Complete Book), then drained and cooled
  • 175g self raising flour mixed with ½ teaspoon salt
  • 60ml olive oil (or use vegetable oil)
  • 150g sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150g stewed apples
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees (fan) or 200 conventional oven

Mix the oil with the sugar then add the eggs one by one. Next stir in the apple followed by the sultanas and vanilla extract.

Mix in the flour and salt (you don’t need to be too gentle, it’s a very resilient cake mix) and pour into a lined loaf tin.

Bake for about an hour, covering with foil towards the end if it’s browning too quickly. It should be gently browned on top and a skewer  or sharp knife inserted into the middle should come out clean.  Cool for about 10 minutes in the tin then remove to a cooling rack and resist for as long as you can then enjoy with a cup of your favourite tea or coffee!

When life gives you pomegranates…

15 Nov

Big Man was born in the beautiful province of Granada. In Spanish, the word Granada means “pomegranate”. The capital city is decorated with many pomegranate symbols from stone bollards to metal work and even man hole covers. Just over the border where our little home is, in the province of Málaga we get to enjoy the real thing in the shape of fruit. The pomegranate plant (which grows into a sizeable tree) produces stunning red flowers, similar to a hibiscus, which then become the beautiful and delicious fruit.

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We’re pretty spoiled as when it’s pomegranate season many neighbours gift them to us. Huge,  beautiful, deep red on the outside, sweet, juicy and ruby coloured jewels on the inside. In England we have to buy them. Sometimes we get lucky and one or two of the little fruits will be sweet, but they’re never quite the same…or as big! You never know what a pomegranate is going to taste like until you get to taste it. And as for peeling a pomegranate…I’ve tried every new way.

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To make the most of a less than sweet fruit, I came across a wonderfully simple recipe using chicken and ras-el-hanout. The slightly acid taste works well with the warm, rose-scented spice. And I’m sharing with you another way to peel a pomegranate. Cutting it in half and bashing it has never worked for me. Usually I end up with a worktop covered in juice and the little pips of fruit stubbornly refusing to drop out. This method still involves a little work separating the pips but it does seem to make the whole job a little easier and much less messy.

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Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course)

  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs,  diced into bite sized pieces
  • 1 onion (red, if you have it) peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of ras-el-hanout
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 350g bulghar wheat
  • The fruit of a small pomegranate
  • About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped mint, to serve
  • Olive oil for frying

Toss the chicken in half the spice mix and fry in a little olive oil until beginning to brown. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and continue to fry gently until the onion becomes transparent. Add the remaining spice mix and season lightly. Fry for a minute then pour in the stock.

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Bring to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes. Add the bulghar, stir, turn the heat off and cover the pan. Leave to stand for about 15 minutes when the stock will have been absorbed. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Stir through the pomegranate and garnish with the fresh mint.

An easy dish with just a few ingredients. Unless you’re still doing battle with your pomegranate…

If you enjoy the challenge  of pomegranate peeling, take a look at this lovely recipe using lamb and quince. Note the difference in colour of the fruit in this recipe which was made with a pomegranate bought back from Spain compared to the one in the photos above!

Apple Roses

26 Aug

This summer I have been lucky enough to have been invited to two very lovely tea parties. I’m talking about the real deal here with smoked salmon sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, lots of lovely cakes and scones, a choice of beautiful teas and a couple of cheeky glasses of champagne.  Afternoon tea is a lovely tradition, not one I have the opportunity to indulge in too often, but a lovely way to get together with friends and loved ones for a proper catch up and to enjoy some delicious food.

Apple Roses (13)

The first tea party was hosted by a very dear friend Barbara as an opportunity to get together with some of her girlfriends. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and she really pushed the boat out for us. I was particularly impressed by some little apple pies that she made which looked like beautiful, icing sugar dusted roses. She confessed they were pretty straightforward to make, so when my mum hosted a tea party too, I decided to make some for us all to share.

This post is photo heavy, and not such great photos at that, but if you decide you’d like to make these, it’s a useful “how to”.

Ingredients (to make 12 mini or 6 large pies)

  • 1 pack of all butter puff pastry (ready rolled is easier)
  • 2 large red apples
  • water
  • 2 teaspoons of apricot jam
  • a little lemon juice
  • a teaspoonful of honey or a heaped teaspoon of sugar
  • icing sugar

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C and you will need some cupcake cases to support the pies while they are baking

Start by cutting the apples in half and removing the cores. Slice fairly thinly and put all the slices into a bowl with 3 tablespoons of water, the sugar or honey and about a tablespoon of lemon juice. Mixx, cover the bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes. You can also do this in a saucepan if you don’t want to use the microwave, simply boil the apples gently in the water, lemon and honey for about 3 minutes.

Apple Roses (3)

Whichever method you use, drain the apples and leave them to cool down slightly.

Next, roll out your pastry (if it is not prerolled) into a large rectangle and cut into 6 strips (lengthways). Dust your work surface with a little icing sugar to prevent the pastry from sticking.

Apple Roses (1)

Melt the jam with a teaspoon of water (microwave or saucepan).

Working with one strip of pastry at a time, brush the pastry with the melted apricot jam and lay overlapping slices of apple along the edge. Allow a little of the top of the apple slice to come over the top of the pastry strip.

Apple Roses (4)

Fold the bottom half of the pastry strip upwards and press down gently.

Apple Roses (7)

For large pies, roll up the whole slice (like a snail shell!), for smaller pies, cut the appe and pastry slices in two and roll up into two smaller rolls.

Put them into a cupcake case to support them and bake for about 45 minutes until the pastry is golden.

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Apple Roses (11)

Allow to cool and dust with icing sugar before admiring your bouquet of apples roses!

A promise of things to come…

21 Apr

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!

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I’m already thinking about Pear Cake!

Pastel 3

Sticky Citrus and Marmalade Tray Bake

18 Feb

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?!

Going, going....nearly gone!

Going, going….nearly gone!

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)

  • 200g self raising four
  • ½ teaspoon each of ground ginger and cinnamon (original recipe uses 1 teaspoon of mixed spice which I didn’t have)
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange and ½ lemon
  • 100g mixed dried fruits
  • A pinch of salt
  • 100g of olive oil (original recipe calls for 140g butter which is then melted), weigh the oil as you add it to the mix
  • 5 tablespoons of marmalade
  • 125ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar

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.

Sticky Citrus and Marmalade Tray Bake (3)

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….

Cranberry, Orange and Raisin Cake

5 Dec

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.

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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)

  • 2 ¼ cups of self raising flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • The grated zest of one orange and the juice from the orange made up to 1/3 cup with water if there is not enough
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • ¾ cup of oil (I used a mix of vegetable oil and olive oil)
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup raisins (or any other dried fruit you fancy)

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.

Not much left...

Not much left…

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.

Slovenly Strawberry Pie

13 Jul

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.

Strwaberry Tart (3)

Ingredients (to serve 4-6)

  • 500g dessert pastry (I cheated and used ready made, but you can always make your own)
  • 600g fresh strawberries halved or quartered if very large
  • 1 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 level tbsp cornflour
  • Splash of fruit liqueur (I used framboise)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Brown sugar

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.

Chocolate and Amaretto Semifreddo

3 Nov

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.

Semifreddo (4)

Ingredients (serves 6-8….well 4-6 in my house)

  • 600ml of double or whipping cream
  • 100g of your favourite chocolate which you need to put into the fridge for an hour or so
  • 2-3 tablespoons of amaretto (or your favourite liqueur)
  • 4 ready-made meringue nests (or you could be a complete Domestic God or Goddess and make your own)
  • A loaf tin or plastic ice cream tub lined with cling film

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!

Autumn Days and Autumn Nights – Apple and Blackberry Pudding

16 Sep

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…

Chumbos (2)

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.

Beach 12 Sep (8)

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.

Beach 12 Sep (5)

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.

VIstas 13 Sep (10)

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.

Blackberry & Apple Pudding (3)

Apple and Blackberry Pudding

  • 2 cups of blackberries (approx.) washed, two small apples peeled and thinly sliced and both fruits mixed together and sprinkled with about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of self raising flour, a pinch of salt and quarter of a cup of sugar mixed together in one bowl
  • 1 large egg, a teaspoon of vanilla essence, a quarter of a cup of oil and a quarter of a cup of natural yogurt beaten together until well mixed.

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.

Blackberry & Apple Pudding (1)

Serve with cream and/or ice cream whilst making sure your dog does not sneak up on you and pinch a mouthful.

Cherry Sourdough Cake

16 Jun

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!

Cherry Sourdough Cake (2)

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)

  • 1 cup of sourdough starter
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • ¾ cup sugar                          
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 cup of chopped, stoned cherries

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).

Cherry Sourdough Cake (3)

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….

For more cherry recipes, click here or here.

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