Thursday, 29 October 2009

Aunt Nancy's Fruit Loaf

Love of cooking and baking runs through the female line of our family and my sister is no exception. JA and her family are vegetarians and the food they cook and eat is fantastic and has inspired me over the years to cook more and more vegetarian meals, some of which I'll publish in future posts.

JA and I love to share recipes for savoury and sweet dishes and as I'm off to spend the weekend with her I thought I'd bake and take one of the family's traditional recipes.

Aunt Nancy's Fruit Loaf
4 ozs butter or soft margarine
4 ozs sultanas
4 ozs raisins
5 fl ozs water
8 ozs SR flour
2 level tsps bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
4 ozs unrefined castor sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Melt the butter in a saucepan. To the melted butter, add the fruit and water. Bring to the boil and bubble gently for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile grease and line a 2lb loaf tin. Then sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and the melted butter and fruit mixture and mix well. Finally, add the beaten eggs and mix until all the ingredients are well combined.

Put the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake at 180C for 45 minutes check the cake after 30 minutes, If the cake begins to over brown cover top of the loaf tin loosely with cooking foil). Then reduce the heat to 150C and bake for a further 15 minutes. Test with a skewer to ensure that cake is baked and then remove from tin and place on a wire rack to cool.

This fruit loaf is lovely either on its own or spread with a little butter. The original recipe did not contain the spices - that's my enhancement. I replace the water either with half water and half orange juice or completely replace the water with HG pressed apple juice.

I've even, in the depths of Winter, replaced the water with Guinness and increased the spices to 1 tsp of each for a Christmassy feel - then you might like to try a generous slice covered in creamy homemade custard - yummee!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Humble Carrot

Lots of lovely crisp carrots on offer at the local market, irresistible! The humble carrot sits alongside the onion as one of the vegetables I most often use. I love the bright orange colour that they add to any dish but I especially like them in soups.

I've added the contents of this bag to butternut squash soup, a couple of casseroles, basic tomato sauce and as the main part of the recipe below: a variation on carrot and coriander soup.

Carrot Soup with Coriander
Serves 6
1 large onion, diced
6 large carrots, 4 peeled and diced and 2 peeled and coarsely grated
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp dried coriander (the green herb)
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tin chopped tomatoes or 4 large fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped
3 ozs orange lentils
2 pts vegetable or chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and celery and cook gently for 5-10 mins until the onions are soft but not coloured.

Add the coriander powder and cook for a further 2 mins. Then add all of the carrots, the chopped tomatoes and the dried coriander. Stir well and add the lentils and the stock.

Bring to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 30-40 mins, stirring ocassionally. Serve in bowls with warmed ciabatta.

You can liquidise this soup if you prefer a smooth version. On this ocassion I enjoyed the tender bite of the carrot and celery.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Cook Book Browsing

When the evenings draw in and we turn the clocks back my thoughts turn to more time in the kitchen and recipes old and new.

On Thursday I received a new cook book in the post
- gorgeous christmas by Annie Bell. Yesterday I eventually found the time to browse through the recipes, lots of inspiration! This put me in the mood for more food mooching and I settled down on the sofa with a stack of cookery books and a cup of coffee. A lovely way to spend an afternoon and a reminder of some of my favourite recipes.

Here's one of Delia Smith's from her Christmas cookbook, one of my most used books, and a recipe that I make time and time again at Christmas and for other friends and family get-togethers. These little vegetarian 'sausage' rolls make good bite sized nibbles (well 2-bite sized) and it's fun to make your own pastry for a change rather than using shop bought.

I have experimented with different cheeses in this recipe and mixes of cheeses - Cheddar with some Parmesan tastes good. I have also replaced the double cream with creme fraiche. Have a go and let me know what you find most delicious.

Vegetarian 'Sausage' Rolls
Makes 36
For the quick flaky pastry
8ozs plain flour
6ozs butter
pinch of salt
cold water for mixing

For the filling
10ozs fresh breadcrumbs
8ozs mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1 large onion, peeled and grated
3 tbsps thick double cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (chives, parsley, thyme etc)
2tsps mustard powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

1 large egg, beaten - for sealing and brushing pastry
3 lightly greased baking sheets
Preheat the oven to 220C, gas mark 7

Make the pastry as follows:
The butter needs to be rock hard for this pastry, so once you've weighed out the required amount wrap it in foil and place in the freezer for 30 mins.

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Grate the butter using a coarse grater into the middle of the flour. Take a palette knife and mix the butter into the flour. Don't use your hands or you'll warm up the butter and don't use a food processor or you'll end up with shortcrust pastry.

Coat all the pieces of the butter with the flour until the mixture is crumbly. Add enough water to form a dough that leaves the bowl clean, bringing it all gently together with your hands. Place the dough in a polythene bag and rest it in the fridge for 30 mins.

For the filling, place all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix together thoroughly.

To make the 'sausage' rolls, divide the pastry into 3 pieces. Then with each piece roll out the pastry as thinly as you can. Take one third of the filling and form this into a long sausage the same length as the pastry strip. Place the 'sausage' in the middle of the pastry, brush with a little beaten egg along one edge of the pastry, then fold the pastry over the filling and seal. Turn the whole thing over onto the sealed edge, press lightly and cut into individual pieces about 2 inches long. Snip 3 v-shapes in the top of each roll with a pair of scissors and brush with beaten egg. Repeat for the remaining 2 portions of pastry and filling.

You can freeze the rolls at this point - make sure you defrost them thoroughly before baking. To bake, place the rolls on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20-25 mins. Serve warm or cold with pickles and chutneys.

If you'd rather have 'real' sausage rolls then substitute the vegetarian filling ingredients with 1lb pork sausagemeat - I use good butcher's sausages and remove the skins - and 1 tsp of dried sage. Both versions have proven successful with HG family and friends.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Bonfire Pudding

I've found a recipe for our Bonfire party pudding. Bonfire night requires warming, comforting and tasty food to stave off the cold November air and what better than a pudding made with autumn harvested apples. Add seasonal mixed dried fruits, some mixed spice and a spoonful or two of yummy, yellow custard...need I say more?

Spicy Bread and Apple Pudding

8ozs wholemeal bread, crusts removed
10fl ozs milk
grated rind of 1 lemon
grated rind of 1 orange
2 apples, peeled, cored and grated
2ozs butter, melted
2ozs soft brown sugar
2tblsp mixed spice
6ozs mixed dried fruit

Break the bread into bite sized pieces place in a bowl with the milk and soak for 30 mins.

When the bread has absorbed the milk add all the remaining ingredients and mix well to combine all the ingredients.

Lightly grease a pie dish and Place the bread and fruit mixture into a lightly greased pie dish and press down lightly, smoothing the top. Put into an oven preheated to 180C for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and serve warm with homemade custard.

This pudding can also be eaten cold as a cake or with ice cream.

Bonfire Night Rehearsal

We've invited a few friends around for a Bonfire and Fireworks evening in 2 weeks time. We held a party like this a couple of years ago and had a lovely evening with a roaring bonfire, extravagant fireworks (provided by our good friends S and M) and warming food. This year's plans are to have the bonfire and fireworks as before supplimented by the christening of our newly constructed outside fireplace and a log fire.

Foodwise I'm going to provide a warming soup with crusty bread, homemade vegetarian and sausage rolls with assorted chutneys and pickles (see previous posts) and a pudding, yet to be decided on. I tried out the soup recipe last week and took samples to my son M's family - they loved it and A requested the here you have it...

Butternut and Carrot Soup
1 small-medium HG butternut squash, peeled and chopped into chunks
4 large carrots - 2 peeled and diced and 2 peeled and grated
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
1 tsp ground cumin
half a nutmeg, grated
1 tin chopped tomatoes or 4 fresh tomatoes peeled and chopped
2 pts vegetable or chicken stock
2 ozs lentils
salt and pepper to taste

Put the onion and oil into a large pan and cook gently until the onion has softened. Add the diced carrots and the squash and cook gently for 5 mins with the lid on, stirring occasionally. Add the grated carrot and the cumin and nutmeg and stir to combine all ingredients. Then add the chopped tomatoes and stock. Bring to a gentle boil and then simmer for 1 hour.

Remove the pot from the heat and, using a hand blender, blend the soup in the pot. Do this very carefully as the soup will be very hot. Add the lentils to the blended soup and stir well. return to the heat and simmer for another 30 mins to cook the lentils. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with warm, crusty bread rolls.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Easiest Chocolate Cake Ever

I have a great recipe that impresses all those chocolate cake lovers amongst us and the best thing about it is that it's sooooo easy. I've been making this recipe since I first started baking whilst at home with my two little boys about 30 years ago (is it really 30 years? it feels like yesterday).

Anyway, the cake became my signature dish, and my BIL JC's favourite cake. The recipe made an appearance in my sister J's handmade and bound family cookbook - a limited edition of 5. Made for birthday's, family gatherings and just for us, I've lost count of the number of times this cake has been baked in my kitchens over the years and to date it's been a success every time - now that is tempting fate! So here's the recipe...

Easiest (and Best) Chocolate Cake Ever
For the cake
4ozs golden castor sugar
4ozs softened butter or soft margarine
4ozs self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1oz cocoa mixed to a paste with 2 tbsps hot water

For the icing
2ozs butter
1 tbsp cocoa
2tbsps hot water
10ozs icing sugar, sieved

Set the oven to 180C and grease and line an 8" cake tin (or 2 x 7" sandwich tins).

Place all the ingredients for the cake in a food processor (or large bowl and mix with electric hand mixer) and thoroughly combine. Put the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin(s). Bake in the oven for 30 minutes (or 25 minutes if using the 7" tins). Check the cake is baked by pressing lightly in the middle, the cake should spring back. Remove from the tin(s) and cool on a wire rack.

To make the fudge filling and topping, put the butter and cocoa in a large saucepan on a gentle heat until the butter has melted and the cocoa is combined with it. Remove from the heat and add 2 tbsp of hot (not boiling) water to the pan with a little of the icing sugar and beat together (I do this by hand with a wooden spoon, though you could use an electric mixer). Continue to add the icing sugar, beating together vigourously between each addition.

When the cake is cool cut it through the middle to make two cakes (no need to do this if you've used the 7" tins as you already have two cakes) and sandwich together with about two thirds of the fudge icing. Put the remaining icing on the top of the cake and spread over evenly using a palette knife. To make a smooth finish, wet the palette knife with cold water as you spread the icing.

The cake will keep for a few days in an airtight cake tin, that's if you can resist eating all of it at one sitting! As you can see from the photograph we're not very good at resisting.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

More Wedding Cake News

Two more wedding cake tiers made yesterday, both 6" cakes and baked in the Aga Rayburn, one for the second tier of the wedding cake and the other as an additional cake to ensure that we have enough to let all the wedding guests have a piece. Time now to source the icing materials...
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