Cherry Sourdough Cake

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.

Baked Sardines with Oranges and Mint

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.

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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

  • About half a kilo of sardines, descaled and gutted
  • One orange halved and thinly sliced
  • Sprigs of mint
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Smoked Pimentón

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.

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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….

Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey

Muttabaq (2)

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.

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of filo pastry
  • 100g melted butter (the original recipe calls for about 50g more but I found I didn’t need it all)
  • 2 x 250g packs of ricotta (Check out Chgo John’s method if you want to make you own)
  • 1 x 250g pack of mascarpone (the original recipe calls for goat’s cheese but I have a goat’s cheese hating pal)
  • A large handful of chopped pistachios

Then my additions

  • About a dozen fresh dates, finely chopped
  • About half a cup of chopped walnuts
  • The grated rind of an orange
  • A tablespoon of icing or caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

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

Muttabaq Pistachios (1)

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.

Oranges & Rosewater (1)

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.

Apricot Stuffed Pork Loin

Apricot Stuffed Pork (1)

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.

Ingredients

  • A loin of pork (or a boned shoulder) mine weighed about 1.75kg 8 (which serves 6-8 people)
  • 10 finely chopped dried apricots soaked overnight in orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon of harissa paste
  • 2-3 tablespoons of pine nuts dried fried until toasted (or you can do this in the oven)
  • Salt and pepper
  • A glass of white wine (or chicken stock)
  • Olive oil

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!

Lamb with Quince, Pomegranate and Coriander

The 6th January is the Feast of Epiphany, celebrating the arrival of the Three Kings to Bethlehem. In Spain el Día De Los Reyes is a feast Day, and widely anticipated and celebrated by young and old. Traditionally a Roscón de Reyes (a Cake of Kings) is made. Check out my recipe from last year here, or Giovanna´s beautiful creation here.

Although we´re currently in England, we weren´t going to let a celebration pass us by, and the opportunity to celebrate it with best friends and parents was too good to miss.

Lamb with Quince (1)

We may have had to eat off a folding table in a half decorated room with mismatched plates from charity shops, but we were going to eat well.

We started with Jamon y Queso (Ham & Cheese) and Habas con Jamon (Broad Beans with Ham) and a delicious Brandada. Check out Mad Dog´s fantastic post all about this Catalan delicacy.

Our main course was inspired by my Christmas present from Big Man, the beautiful book Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. We had bought a couple of quince back from Spain with us, although I didn´t have quite enough so added in chunks of butternut squash (Ottolenghi recommends pear) which worked really well.  Below is how I cooked the recipe with the original recipe also shown.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course)

  • 400g minced lamb
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 1 red chili, chopped (I used 1 tsp hot pimentón)
  • 20g chopped coriander plus 2tbsp to garnish
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 1tsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 2 medium onions peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium free range egg
  • 4 quince (1.3kg in total) I used 2 quince and a small butternut squash
  • ½ lemon squeezed plus 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp pomegranate molasses (I couldn´t find this so used honey plus the juice of an extra half a lemon)
  • 2 tsp sugar (I left this out)
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Seeds of ½ pomegranate
  • Salt and black pepper

Place the lamb in a bowl with the garlic, chili, coriander, breadcrumbs, allspice, half the ginger, half the onion, egg and seasoning. Mix with your hands and then form small meatballs. The original recipe suggests stuffing halves of quince, Believe me, this is very hard work as quince are very hard to peel and chop, so I went with his other suggestion to chop the quince and cook with the lamb meatballs.

Lamb with Quince (2)

Peel and chop the quince/squash into large chunks and finely chop about a quarter of the chunks. Leave the larger pieces in a pot of water with the juice of half a lemon to stop the quince turning too brown. Or don´t bother – it will still look and taste good when cooked!

Heat the oil and add the finely chopped quince/squash, onions, ginger and cardamom pods. Cook (covered) until softened then add the molasses and lemon juice (or honey and lemon juice), sugar (if using), stock and seasoning. Now add the quince/squash and meatballs and cook gently for about an hour (covered) or until the fruit is soft. Remove the lid and turn up the heat and cook for a further few minutes until the sauce is thick and pulpy, check for seasoning and sprinkle with the pomegranate and fresh coriander before serving. I also added an extra squeeze of lemon juice.

Tastes even better if made the day before (just don´t add the coriander and pomegranate). I served it with basmati rice into which I stirred browned onions and cumin seeds (toasted and crushed with a pestle and mortar).

Fruit Platter (1)

Phew – a lovely meal with friends which was rounded off with singing and dancing (of the silly variety), Roscón and a fruit platter which went some way to convincing us that we hadn´t consumed any calories at all over Christmas and New Year.

Spiced Poached Peaches

Well, it´s peach season here, and mostly my favourite way to eat them is “au naturel”.  Sometimes though, it´s fun to do something a little more exciting with them.

Here´s a simple little recipe for those of you who want to make a light dessert using the best of the season´s fruit. Oh, and wine. Not sure how it would taste using an alternative, grape juice perhaps, but if anyone gives it a go, I´d love to hear how it turns out.

I made the recipe for three, but the spices are enough for about half a dozen pieces of fruit.

Ingredients

  • 1 peeled peach (or nectarine per person) left whole but scored as if you were going to cut it in half
  • About half a dozen red grapes and raspberries per person
  • Red wine
  • Water
  • 3 tsp of sugar per person
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 clove per person
  • 1 vanilla pod, sliced in half lengthways (you can reuse to make vanilla sugar afterwards)
  • A good grind of fresh black pepper

Put the peaches or nectarines and grapes into the snuggest pot they will fit in, then cover completely with half water and half wine. Add the sugar, vanilla and spices (including the black pepper) and bring to the boil. Simmer until tender then remove the fruit.  Taste and add more sugar if necessary or a little squeeze of lemon juice if you prefer it less sweet.

Turn up the heat, and boil it hard until you have a pouring syrup.

Arrange the fruit on a serving plate, strain the syrup over (you don´t want the spices now) and garnish with fresh raspberries (rose petals and mint leaves are optional). Chill and serve as is or with single (pouring) cream.

And if this has set you thinking, check out Greg´s fantastic post which features an amazing range of ideas for using peaches in recipes. Yummy!

Cherry and Banana Cake

One of our local villages is famed for its cherries, and even has a fiesta dedicated to this beautiful fruit next weekend. What lucky folk we are! I am back from my trip toLondon where I was spending time with Best Friend Ria who was not long out of hospital. She is on the mend and we spent a week doing things very slowly…always best when you are feeling sore and tired.

On a trip into the village (before leaving for the UK) to buy som of the famed cherries, I was also given half a dozen over-ripe bananas as the fruit lady knew that I used them to make cakes. “Let me know what you do with them” she called, so I made an extra large batch of batter and sent her over some little cup cakes I made with the extra mixture.

To make one large cake though, follow this simple recipe. You won´t regret it!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of chopped cherries soaked in dark rum (or strong black tea) I usually heat this and let it cool while I make the cake
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of self raising flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup oil (I use olive oil)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 small ripe bananas mashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Heat the oven to 180ºC and line either a large round or loaf tin or two small ones with greaseproof paper.  Beat the oil and sugar together then beat in the eggs. Add the banana, cherries and vanilla and stir then gradually stir in the flour. Pour into a prepared tin and bake for 1 hour (large tin) or about 45 mins (2 smaller tins).

This recipe is adapted from my banana bread recipe. And if you´re feeling like you need a little drink to go with your cake, why not try a glass of Cherry Brandy or a Cherry and Watermelon Granizada. Don´t you just love summer fruits?!

Speedy Strawberry Delight

For many of us it´s strawberry season right now. The pleasure of eating a sweet juicy strawberry on its own, or covered in whipped cream is something very special. And of course we can mix them into cakes, turn them into jam…well, the possibilities are almost endless.

Sometimes though you fancy a bowlful of strawberry deliciousness but you need it NOW. Here´s a little dish of strawberries that´s not too naughty and quick to pull together and hit the spot last night when we fancied a little midnight feast (hence the dark shot)!

Per person

  • Half a cup of thick creamy natural yogurt (I used Greek)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar (optional)
  • About half a dozen strawberries, sliced
  • A drizzle of honey
  • A splash of framboise (raspberry) liqueur – optional

Stir the sugar (if using) into the yogurt, pile the strawberries on top, splash on the liqueur, drizzle the honey over then find yourself a nice quiet spot to sit and enjoy a little indulgence and a moment of peace all to yourself.

Coffee, Pear and Almond Cake

Some friends were coming over for “Merienda” which is afternoon tea in Spain, so it was a good opportunity to bake a cake. My Spanish pals do make me smile as when we get together for coffee and cakes, they always mention what a lovely English custom it is. I smile and agree, secretly thinking that I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of occasions I stopped for a proper afternoon tea when I lived in England. Oh well, I am certainly making up for it now.

This is a quick cake to pull together.  Sometimes it takes longer for the oven to warm up than it does for you to prepare the cake batter.

Ingredients (serves 10-12 slices)

  • One large pear, peeled, halved, quartered and then each quarter cut into three or four pieces
  • 1 ½ cups of self raising flour, ½ cup of ground almonds, a pinch of salt, a cup and a half of sugar all mixed together in a bowl
  • 3 large eggs, ½ a cup of vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of almond essence, 2 shots of very strong cold espresso, half a cup of natural yogurt beaten together until well blended

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix gently with a wooden spoon. Using a large cake tin (mine was silicone, so no need to line but I sprayed with a little oil) line the base with the pear slices to form a circular pattern.

Pour over the cake better and smooth out the mixture.

Bake at 180ºC for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin. Eat warm or cold. Keeps well for a few days – which is good as it is quite a large cake!

Beautiful Bakewell Cake

The 23rd April, the day before we left for our whirlwind trip to the UK, was St George´s Day. Yes, he who slayed the dragon and is the Patron Saint of England despite not having a very clear connection to my place of birth. Although this is not typically celebrated as special day in England, I decided to make something to remind me of it in honour of the day.

A traditional Bakewell Tart consists of a pastry base with a jam and sponge filling with almonds and may well have originated in the town of Bakewell in England. I´d be happy to be enlightened. The version of this delicious dessert is a cake and was inspired by a BBC Good Food recipe. As ever, I had to adapt!

Ingredients

  • 140g finely ground almonds
  • 140g softened butter
  • 140g caster sugar (the recipe calls for golden caster sugar)
  • 140g self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • About 5 tablespoons of strawberry jam (this was my main change as the recipe calls for 250g fresh raspberries)
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds
  • Icing sugar to decorate

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and base-line and grease a deep 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Blitz the ground almonds, butter, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla extract in a food processor until well combined.

Spread half the mix over the cake tin and smooth over the top. Scatter the raspberries over (I spooned over the jam) , then dollop the remaining cake mixture on top and roughly spread – you might find this easier to do with your fingers. Scatter with flaked almonds and bake for 50 mins until golden. Cool in the tin then remove and dust with icing sugar to serve.