Tag Archive | summer

Cherry Bakewell Traybake

Bakewell1.jpg

The last few weeks have flowed like syrup. Dark, sticky and heavy with the promise of thunder. Thoughts move slowly, my body even more so as I do my best “Edwardian lady” impression – floating around the house in diaphanous gowns and drinking endless cups of tea.

edwardian lady

Any proper afternoon tea should come with a cake of some sort. No delicate little fancies for me however, what I require is a cake that matches the weather: dense, moist and almost (but not quite) a little too sweet.

In my head, Cherry Bakewells mean Mr Kipling. I experienced no other as a child and I can’t say I cared for them all that much. I found them too dry, too small and not nearly almond-y enough for my palette. This is a shame really as I consider cherry and almond to be a flavour combination made in heaven, and one that is perfect for summer. This recipe is not like Mr Kipling’s Cherry Bakewells. Nor is it like an authentic Bakewell tart, which is an entirely different entity. It is a sort of hybrid: a were-bake: a Franken-well… but one that tastes very nice.

Recipe Notes

  • This is not necessary a quick recipe. The various stages are simple enough but it does take time. For people with limited “spoons” like me this can be problematic. I’ve found I can reduce the time by completing each stage in the order given below and/or actually making the pastry in advance and freezing it. (It freezes perfectly well for several months) I also love my food processor. It saves me so much time and effort, and I can even put it in the dishwasher. I know they’re expensive (mine was a gift from my Dad) but if you cook a lot it might be worth the investment. The good news is, simple ones work just as well for day-to-day cooking as fancy ones with all the attachments. It’s also possible to find old 70s/80s food processors at flea markets and car boot sales being sold for next to nothing. My Mum has had her food processor for around 30 years and it’s still going strong.
food-processor

My Mum’s is not this exact brand but it looks like this.

  • So far, I have made this recipe using eggs and have also made it completely vegan, using chia seed goo instead. Personally, I prefer the fully vegan version as it is much denser and stickier. But, if you are not vegan and prefer a lighter, more risen sponge layer then the eggs are for you. See my recipe here for how to make the chia seed egg replacement. It’s really easy and only takes a few minutes.

 

  • Similarly, if you are using gluten free flour for the pastry then I’ve found that an egg or chia seed substitute helps to bind it all together a little better. But if you are not using gluten free flour then this is not necessary at all.

 

  • If you don’t use polenta or ground almonds very much and don’t want a situation where you have half a packet lurking in the back of the cupboard forever more, you can replace them in the pastry with the equivalent amount of flour. They’re not vital ingredients at all, they just make the pastry taste that bit nicer.

 

  • I nearly always use golden caster sugar in my baking because I like the slight caramel taste but you don’t have to – normal caster sugar works just fine.

 

  • The amount of water used in the icing seems tiny but go with it. For years I made icing too runny by adding more water than I should because it seemed right at the time. It wasn’t until I discovered this ratio that I finally achieved the perfect consistency of “firm enough not to run all down the sides but runny enough to not be fondant”. I promise you, it works.

 

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 6oz gf plain flour
  • 1.5oz polenta
  • ½ oz ground almonds
  • 1 heaped tsp xanthan gum
  • 5oz (vegan) butter
  • 2oz golden caster sugar
  • EITHER 1 egg OR equivalent vegan egg replacer (1/4 tablespoon chia seeds + 1 tbs water)
  • A little water

Filling

  • 4oz gf self raising flour
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 8oz (vegan) butter
  • 8oz golden caster sugar
  • 1tsp almond essence
  • EITHER 4 medium eggs, beaten OR equivalent vegan egg replacer (4 tbs chia seeds + 16 tbs water)
  • About half a jar of jam – strawberry, raspberry or cherry works nicely

Icing

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 3tbs water
  • 25g flaked almonds (toasted)
  • 20 glace cherries

Method

Pastry

First make the pastry (this can always be done in advance to save time).

The method is pretty much the same as with any pastry, and if you have a food processor you can skip the faff, pop all of the ingredients in together and watch the magic happen. If not, do the following…

1.  Mix the flour, polenta, ground almonds and xanthan gum together in a large bowl.

2.  Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the dry mix. “Rub it in” using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3.  Mix in the sugar.

4.  Add the chia seed egg replacer/egg yolk and mix in well.

5.  Add a tiny bit of water at a time, mixing with a spoon and then your hands until the mixture comes together to form a solid ball. The amount of water you will need depends on the individual mix so go slowly. If you are using a particularly large egg you may not need any water at all.

6.  Ideally, wrap the pastry in clingfim and chill in the fridge for half an hour (if you are pushed for time you can skip this step).

Bakewell 14.jpg

7.  Grease the inside of a large roasting tin with oil and dust with flour to coat the surface.

Bakewell 6

8.  Roll out your pastry to fit the tin. Rather than attempt a complicated transfer process with fragile, crumbly gluten free pastry, I find it easier to simply roll it out part way, and then squish it out the rest of the way into the corners of the tin with my fingers.

9.  Prick the pastry all over with a fork. (This helps the pastry to stay flat and crisp)

Bakewell 7

10.  Spread a generous layer of jam all over.

Bakewell 8

Filling

While the pastry is chilling, make the filling… (That rhymes!)

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6.

2.  In a large bowl, cream (mix really hard) the butter and sugar until pale in colour.

Bakewell 3.jpg

3.  Add the “eggs” a little at a time, stirring after each addition.

Bakewell 4

4.  Add the almond essence and ground almonds.

Bakewell 5

5.  Sieve in the flour and fold it in, in a “figure of 8” pattern.

6.  Spoon the mixture over the jam-covered pastry and bake for 40 minutes until golden-brown.

Bakewell 9

Bakewell 10

Icing

While the filling is cooking, make the icing… (That doesn’t rhyme. How disappointing)

  1. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl to remove any lumps.
  2. Stir in the water.

Bakewell 11.jpg

Put it all together!

  1. Once the filling is reasonably cool, spread the icing over it (leave it in the tin at this stage) and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

Bakewell 12.jpg

2. Place 20 glace cherries evenly over the surface.

Bakewell 13.jpg

3. Cut into 20 squares with a sharp knife.

4. Leave in a cool place for the icing to set a little more and lift the squares out of the tin.

Bakewell 2.jpg

Advertisements

Simple Courgette Pasta for Dinosaurs

dinosaur courgette

This is the giga-courgette. The latest in a series of giant courgettes to have grown apparently overnight in my garden. The picture includes an actual, genuine, totally-real-life dinosaur for size reference. (I found him grazing on my herbaceous border last week) I would call it a marrow except it’s not quite there yet. I have been very impressed with this year’s variety of plant that seems to let courgettes grow to mammoth size before they develop the texture and seeds of marrows. I would buy it again next year except I can’t remember for the life of me what it was called.

Excellent though all this is, it does leave me with a bit of a surplus. Which is ironic given that the inhabitants of this city are still reeling from “that month when Sainsburys didn’t have courgettes.” How we all survived that apocalyptic event I can’t fathom…

I’m pleased to say (not a little smugly) that my home-grown courgettes do taste nicer than the supermarket one, especially this yellow variety which is much sweeter. This means that I really want to enjoy them in simple recipes without a lot of flavour competition. The recipe below is really simple and great for summer. You can make this with any courgettes of course and it will still taste good, but if you do have access to a farmers’ market, organic store or a kindly friend with a courgette problem then I would urge you to try it with the nicest courgettes you can get your hands on. Even if that means wresting a dinosaur for them.

IMG_20170710_195534.jpg

Two normal sized courgettes from my plants last week

Recipe notes

I prefer using spelt pasta these days because it doesn’t stick together in the pan like lots of the gluten free ones do, however it’s not suitable for people with a serious gluten intolerance. Spelt pasta comes in white and brown, and the white version tastes just like normal pasta to me. Having said that, I actually prefer the brown as it is more flavoursome and filling. You can actually use any shape of pasta for these recipes but I find spaghetti works best.

I have taken to peeling courgettes instead of chopping them – you basically peel them like a carrot and keep going until there’s nothing left (mind your fingers!). They cook much quicker that way and I prefer the texture. If you have one of those fancy spiralizers you could also use that.

Since I am a fearsome carnivorous velociraptor I use bacon in this recipe when eating alone. If my herbivorous brachiosaur mate is joining me however, we substitute it with Quorn hot dogs. The flavour seems to work better than Quorn bacon for some reason. They come in frozen and non-frozen packets and as far as I can tell they’re exactly the same thing; we just use the frozen ones because they’re cheaper. They are not vegan however.

If you are using standard out of season courgettes for this and want to add a little extra flavour, a little green “FreeFrom” brand pesto works brilliantly to perk it up.

Ingredients (serves 2 hungry dinosaurs)

  • 1 giga-courgette or 2 smaller ones
  • 3 spring onions
  • 3 pieces of streaky bacon OR 5 Quorn hot dogs
  • Seeds – I use a pre-mixed packet of pumpkin, linseed, sunflower and sesame seeds.
  • Cashew nut pieces
  • Cold-pressed olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Approx 200g pasta – gluten free or spelt

 

Method

(Vegetarian instructions in green)

  1. Cook the pasta, following the times given on the packet. If using gluten free, heating it up in cold water (as opposed to using boiling water from the kettle) may help it to stick less. Remember to stir often throughout the cooking process.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, peel and/or chop the vegetables. Courgette pasta 2.jpg
  3. If using bacon, cut into little squares and fry for a couple of minutes.
  4. Cook the hot dogs as per the instructions on the packet (for the frozen ones this involves removing them from the packet and microwaving for 2mins).
  5. Add the vegetables to the frying pan and cook for about 5mins until they soften. Courgette pasta 3.jpg
  6. Chop the hot dogs into pieces and add them to the pan about halfway through cooking the veg.
  7. Toss in a handful of chopped nuts and seeds. Fry for 1 minute.
  8. Add the pasta and stir it all up until it is thoroughly mixed and warmed through. Courgette pasta 4.jpg
  9. Plate up and drizzle over a little olive oil.  Courgette pasta 5.jpg
  10. Roar victoriously.

Courgette pasta 7.jpg

 

 

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble

Crumble1

If you ask me, there is something comical about rhubarb. I don’t know why. I think it’s got something to do with this.

My Uncle has a new allotment and has given much care to his rhubarb plants. I haven’t seen them but apparently, they are luscious, thriving and have stems as thick as your arm. He’s thinking of showing them. I was given some of this rhubarb when I visited my Nan a week or so ago and as far as I’m concerned, there is only one thing to do with rhubarb…

…Crumble!*

*I know crumble is technically more of an autumn dish, but never mind.

Crumble6

Recipe Notes

  • There are recipes out there for all sorts of fancy and wonderful things you can do with rhubarb, crumble and both. But seeing as the focus of this blog is on simple, tasty, home cooking, it would be remiss of me not to start with the real basics. I grew up eating a lot of crumble but it does contain our old friends, wheat and dairy. Luckily, these are so easy to substitute in a crumble recipe you barely notice the difference.
  • Sometimes, I like to substitute some of the flour for a handful of porridge oats and/or chopped nuts to give it an interesting texture. It depends what mood I’m in.
  • If you prefer your fruit crunchy you can skip the pre-cooking step and just bake it from raw. I don’t as I like my fruit more cooked but I still take care not to simmer it for too long.

Ingredients

  • 8oz of cooking apples
  • 8oz fresh rhubarb
  • 6oz plain flour (or gf substitute flour of choice)
  • 3oz butter, chilled (or vegan/lactofree substitute)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • An orange
  • 3oz caster sugar (I like golden caster sugar but white works fine)

Method

  1. Wash the apples and rhubarb. Cut both into small-ish chunks.Crumble5
  2. Finely grate the orange rind and squeeze the juice.
  3. Place the fruit in a pan with, the cinnamon, orange rind and a tablespoon of orange juice.
  4. Place a lid on the pan with a little gap to let the air out and simmer for roughly 5mins, or until the fruit begins to soften, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking to the bottom.Crumble4
  5. Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the flour. “Rub it in” to the flour using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make sure the butter is as cold as possible for this to work best. (Alternatively, stick it all in the food processor and let that do the work for you!)
  6. Add the sugar.
  7. Place the fruit mixture in the bottom of a large oven-proof dish. (1.5 pint should do)
  8. Spread the crumble mixture on top and dot with little chunks of butter.Crumble3
  9. Bake at 210°C for 20mins and reduce to 180°C for 45mins.
  10. Eat before you can take a decent photo of it for your food blog.

 

  1. Crumble2

    Observe my truly excellent photography skills. I particularly like the shadow of the camera I have managed to capture in the corner…

Interesting times

“There is a curse. They say: May you live in interesting times” – Terry Pratchett

I haven’t written anything on here in a long time. I’m not sure why that is. Various reasons I think – a busy life, illness, a garden that is just too tempting to be ignored… I have been spending a lot of time reading instead. I have read fascinating blogs, articles and opinion pieces from all sorts of people around the world. I have read about my friends’ travels and have actually started taking an interest in the news again, for the first time in a very long while. It would seem that we live in interesting times.

About the most interesting thing to happen around here is my new cucamelon plant. This I obtained at great expense from the botanical hothouse of one Dr Frankenstein. I do not know the gentleman in question but I am assured that it shall grow magical fruits of great wonder, that will bestow upon me awesome powers of superhuman ability. I’m hoping for either super strength or the ability to shape-shift but time will tell. At the very least my loud protestations of “but you just don’t seem to be that interested in the cucamelons!” and my husband’s dry rejoinder of “that’s because I’m not” has afforded the neighbours some amusement.

Cucamelons.jpg

Awesome. Super. Powers.

I never mean to grow vegetables in my garden. It just sort of happens to me. Things self-seed and I can’t bear to get rid of them or I visit the garden centre for some cheap plant food but instead walk out with 3 different types of courgette, 2 cucumber plants and 5 packets of “interesting” looking seeds.

I tell myself that it’s silly really. I live in a rented property and making a proper veg patch isn’t an option. I haven’t time for an allotment so make do the best I can with pots and whatever I can sneak into the borders without the local snail population noticing. (The population whom, I am convinced, hold their annual general meeting among my salad leaves) By the time I’ve paid for the seedlings, soil and plant food the cost works out more expensive than if I’d just bought the vegetables from the supermarket. I try to get around this by only keeping unusual varieties or things that taste much better home-grown, but it’s still an expensive hobby.

The trouble is, I just can’t resist the lure of the dream. The dream of living on my own little hobbit smallholding in the woods somewhere and being completely self-sufficient. The dream of a magic, endless supply of delicious vegetables. The thrill of getting something for free. The oh-so-smug satisfaction of being able to say “why yes, I did grow those cucamelons myself, thanks for asking. Yes, they did grant me my powers of telekinesis. No, you can’t have one”.

First crop

Rose petals, strawberries and one teeeny courgette – my first “harvest” about a month ago.

Strawberries 1.jpg

Strawberries & baby chard planted in an old rusty wheelbarrow I found at the bottom of my garden when I moved in.

Courgette 3

First tiny yellow courgettes this year

Courgette 2

Monster courgettes that emerged, bizarrely, from a supposed “baby courgette” plant.

Courgette 1

With a teaspoon for size reference.