Tag Archives: comfortfood

Spiced apple cake

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This has been a weekend of cooking with seasonal food.  Today’s seasonal ingredient was apple, more specifically Russet apples.  I was very fortunate to be given a huge bag of Russets by a friend when I went to visit her at her family’s farm outside of London and I have been slowly using them up over the course of the last couple of weeks.   Russet apples are good to cook with as they tend to hold their form which is great if you bake them in a cake and have a wonderful tangy flavour.

This afternoon I used some of the apples to make a spiced apple cake.  I used a combination of fresh and dried spices to make this cake, simply because I have fresh ginger in my fridge at the moment however using all dried spices in the recipe would be fine and if you can’t get your hands on Russets, then use any other variety of tangy eating apple to make this cake.

This cake is great for afternoon tea, however I would also say that it would also make a fantastic pudding served with some cream or crème fraiche.  This cake has a lovely warmth from the spices, but the overriding flavour comes from the tanginess of the apples.  This recipe is well worth a try -enjoy!

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Spiced Apple cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 Russet apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1” fresh ginger (peeled and finely grated) (If using dried ginger use 1 tsp)
  • 150g soft margarine
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 or 2 tbsp milk
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 170C Fan.
  2. Line the base of a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Spoon the honey into the cake tin and spread around the base of the tin.

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  1. Prepare the apples then place in a bowl with the lime and ginger and mix together gently.
  2. Place the apples carefully in the base of the tin in a decorative fashion.
  3. Prepare the cake batter using the ‘all in one’ method. Place the margarine, sugar, eggs, flour and spices in a bowl.  Using an electric whisk beat the mixture together until you have a smooth thick batter with a consistency of clotted cream (use the milk to loosen the batter as needed).
  4. Pour the batter into the cake tin and level it out gently using the back of a spoon.
  5. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.
  6. Once cooked, remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool.
  7. Just before you serve the cake sift over a little icing sugar.

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Banana and chocolate loaf

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I am not a huge fan of very ripe bananas so when I found myself with several fairly black looking bananas I had to think of something to do with them.  Fortunately one of my colleagues happened to mention fairly recently that their favourite cake is banana loaf so my decision was easy.

First up I should say that banana and chocolate loaf is definitely a cake and not a bread – it is a fairly dense cake and goes extremely well with a cup of tea.  This is the type of cake that doesn’t like to be rushed in the oven, don’t be over anxious and open the door regularly as you will cause the cake to sink and it won’t change the cooking time.  So my advice is be patient, put your feet up read a book and wait for your cake to be ready!

Banana and chocolate loaf

Ingredients :

  • 6oz bananas (peeled and mashed)
  • 4oz soft margarine
  • 6oz caster sugar
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1tbsp rum
  • 1 heaped tbsp crème fraiche
  • 4oz plain chocolate (broken into small pieces)

Steps:

  1.  Preheat oven to 150C (fan).  Grease and line a loaf tin.
  2. Cream the soft margarine and sugar together in a bowl using an electric whisk.
  3. Slowly beat in the eggs (add a little flour if the mixture looks as if it might curdle).
  4. Whisk in the flour, salt and baking powder.
  5. Then add the mashed banana, crème fraiche, chocolate and rum and mix well.
  6. Pour the cake batter into the loaf tin.  Place in the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean.
  7. Leave the cake to cool before serving.

Stuffed chicken breast wrapped in streaky bacon

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I think time must have started speeding up as I have no idea where the weeks let alone the days nor hours…   I am very much back in London mode, where you try to fit in as much as possible during the day.  Whilst it couldn’t be any more different to SW France, I am glad to be back and I’m thoroughly enjoying being able to catch up with my friends throughout the week and heading off to go sailing or do something a little bit different at the weekends.   (If you are missing my tales of SW France, check out Mumsy’s blog http://molleslifeinswfrance.wordpress.com/author/mollesquercy/ for French life from a less food orientated perspective!)

Between all the madness I have been able to keep playing in the kitchen and have been making a few different things including a fish pie parcel (that I was really pleased with and I hope to share the recipe over the course of the next week) and two gluten free lemon drizzle cakes.  The gluten free cakes have caused me a little bit of dismay, I am used to my cakes being fairly light and delicate and the gluten free cakes were definitely not that!  Truth be told the first attempt at making the cake was definitely the best, I used almonds in the place of the flour and it tasted OK despite the cake itself feeling like a lead weight that crumbled everywhere.  The second attempt was, umm let’s say interesting, it is the first time in years that I have actually followed a recipe for a cake because it suggested using a combination ground almonds and mashed potato.  Yup, you read it right, mashed potato.  In fairness to the mashed potato, I think it did make the texture of the cake more like a sponge, but the taste, well that had a lot to be desired!  However, I shall persevere and try and find a gluten free recipe that both looks and tastes good.

One meal that I have repeated a couple of times over the last couple of weeks has been stuffed chicken breast wrapped in streaky bacon.  The joy with this recipe is that you can prepare it the day before if you think you are going to be short of time and then simply throw it in the oven and cook it as soon as you get home and 40 minutes later you have a delicious meal on the table.  The chicken is stuffed with Boursin Cheese which along with wrapping the chicken in streaky bacon keeps the chicken breast beautifully moist.  The only fiddly bit in making this meal is wrapping the chicken breast in the streaky bacon, but once you’ve found the technique it couldn’t be easier!  This is definitely a recipe worth trying!

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Stuffed chicken breast wrapped in streaky bacon

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 12-16 slices of streaky bacon (smoked)
  • 1 Boursin cheese
  • olive oil
  • seasoning

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan.
  2. Remove any sinew from the chicken breasts then, using a sharp knife create a ‘pocket’ in the chicken breast that you are going to stuff the cheese. (I find the easiest way to do this is to work from the ‘fattest’ side of the chicken breast and work carefully inwards, making sure that the cut runs almost the full length of the chicken breast so that you can pack in as much cheese as possible).
  3. Once you have made the ‘pocket cuts’ in the chicken breast, taking a good wedge of the Boursin cheese stuff  the breasts, packing it in firmly, make sure that you press down on the breast to close the ‘pocket’.
  4. Next lay 3-4 slices of the streaky bacon out on top of a chopping board so that they create a rectangle for the chicken breast to be wrapped in.  Place the chicken breast towards one side of the rectangle and then roll up in the bacon, wrapping it as tightly as possible.
  5. Place the chicken breasts on a baking tray, season with black pepper, drizzle over a little olive oil.
  6. Place in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes.  Serve on a bed of sweet potato mash or couscous with the vegetables of your choice.  Enjoy!

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Toad in the hole (de-constructed)

DSC_0568 (4)I have just returned from Yorkshire, where I spent the weekend with friends and family.  I think that you will be unsurprised to hear that the weekend entailed a lot of cooking and eating…   However, in between meals (which included an outstanding roast that my brothers cooked yesterday evening) we did manage to pack in a couple of good walks in the Dales and by the coast.  Yesterday’s walk down in Robin Hood’s Bay was spectacular.  The scenery was beautiful and to top it off we came across a number of seals sheltering in the rocks that we were walking over. 

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On Saturday evening after a fairly relaxed day I made toad in the hole for everyone.  As we didn’t have a big enough tray to cook the toad in the hole in I decided to “ de-construct” the dish, to put it simply I cooked the Yorkshire puddings and sausages separately and then combined everything once it had all been cooked…  By cooking everything separately made the whole process far easier – the sausages were nicely cooked and the Yorkshire puddings rose beautifully and had a lovely light texture.   I served the toad in the hole with red onion gravy which added a slightly sweet flavour to the dish which worked really well.  I have to say I think this meal is another one of those great comfort foods that are ideal for a cold day, enjoy!

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Toad in the hole (De-constructed)

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 18-24 good quality sausages
  • 5oz plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 egg
  • 225ml milk
  • Vegetable oil (for cooking with)

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 190C Fan.

2.  Place the sausages in a roasting tray and cook for 30-35 minutes

3.  Whilst the sausages are cooking put the flour and salt in a bowl, using a whisk beat the egg into the dry mix.

4.  Slowly add the milk whisking all the time so stop any lumps forming then, decant the batter into a measuring jug.

5.  Take a non-stick muffin tray (with 12 moulds) and pour a little oil roughly ½tsp – 1tsp into the base of each mould.   After the sausages have been cooking for around 20 minutes place the muffin tray in the oven for 3-5 minutes so that the oil is hot then, remove from the oven and pour the batter evenly between each of the pre-oiled moulds and bake for 15-18 minutes.

6.  Once the sausages and the Yorkshire puddings are cooked, remove from the oven and serve, with celeriac and potato mash, veg and red onion gravy (see recipe below).

Red Onion Gravy

Ingredients:

  • 2 red onions (finely sliced)
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 2-3tbsp olive oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 1 glass red wine
  • 1 heaped tsp honey (optional)
  • 150-250ml beef stock
  • Seasoning

Steps:

1.  Place the oil, onions and sugar in a saucepan cover with a lid and cook very slowly until the onions are soft (this can up to half an hour).

2.  Once the onions are soft, add the flour and stir well.

3.  Turn up the heat and then slowly add the wine, stirring all the time.  Once all the wine has been added, slowly add the beef stock until you have the consistency you are looking for.

4.  Taste and add the honey and season as required.

Making biscuits

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Sometimes you can’t beat a good biscuit, particularly a biscuit that can withstand being ‘dunked’ in a cup of tea.  I don’t often make biscuits, however this week I have made two batches.  Firstly a slightly more ‘grown up’ biscuit involving ground almonds that are great if you are having a coffee morning.  The second batch was my take on a childhood favourite, the bourbon.

Both of the biscuits are very straightforward to make.   It is a bit faster and less messy if you can use a food processor to mix the ingredients due to the golden syrup in the recipes.  However, if you are prepared to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in then it is just as easy to make the biscuits by hand.  For me the test of a good biscuit is if it stays crunchy on the second day, this largely depends on how long you leave them cooking in the oven.  This can be a little tricky as the golden syrup means that the biscuits can catch and burn quite easily due to the high sugar content.  My advice to prevent this is – watch your biscuits like a hawk whilst they are in the oven and turn the oven down if you think they are cooking too quickly.  When the biscuits come out of the oven they will feel a little soft, but they should harden up nicely if they are left to cool completely on a cooling rack before eating.


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Almond Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 6oz plain flour
  • 4oz butter
  • 1oz sugar
  • 1oz golden syrup (roughly 2 heaped tsp)
  • 1oz ground almonds
  • a pinch of salt

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 190C fan.

2.  Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and crumb together using your fingers, after a few minutes the ingredients should come together.  Alternatively, place the ingredients in a food processor and blitz for a minute, tip crumbs onto the surface and shape into a ball.

3.  Dust a piece of baking paper with sugar and roll out the dough till it is about 2-3mm thick.  Then cut out the biscuits using a cutter or a glass.

4. Continue to roll out scraps of dough until you have used it all.

5.  Place the biscuits on baking trays that have been lined with baking paper.

6.  Bake for 7-10 minutes, make you keep an eye on them as they can burn easily if necessary turn your oven down slightly.

9.  Once cooked, remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.  Serve with a cup of tea/coffee.

 

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My Chocolate Bourbons

Ingredients:

For the biscuits:

  • 6oz plain flour
  • 4oz butter
  • 1oz sugar
  • 1oz golden syrup (roughly 2 heaped tsp)
  • 1oz cocoa powder

For the buttercream:

  • 2oz butter (at room temperature)
  • 1oz cocoa powder
  • 4-6oz icing sugar
  • 1tbsp milk

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 190C fan.

2.  Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and crumb together using your fingers, after a few minutes the ingredients should come together.  Alternatively, place the ingredients in a food processor and blitz for a minute, tip crumbs onto the surface and shape into a ball.

3.  Dust a piece of baking paper with cocoa powder and roll out the dough till it is about 2-3mm thick.  Then cut out the biscuits using a cutter or a glass.

4. Continue to roll out scraps of dough until you have used it all.

5.  Place the biscuits on baking trays that have been lined with baking paper.

6.  Bake for 7-10 minutes, make you keep an eye on them as they can burn easily if necessary turn your oven down slightly.

9.  Once cooked, remove from oven and place on a cooling rack, whilst you prepare the buttercream.

10.  To make the buttercream, beat the butter until soft, then gradually add the cocoa powder and icing sugar until you have a smooth consistency adding the milk if needed to loosen the mix slightly.

11.  Spoon a little of the buttercream onto half of the biscuits and then sandwich them together by placing a biscuit on top of each of them.  Enjoy!

A lemon syrup pudding in 10 mins…

I don’t tend to cook with a microwave that often other than to melt butter and de-thaw bread.  That being said, there is one pudding that I will happily cook in the microwave time and time again – a lemon syrup pudding.  This is because it takes less than ten minutes to make and it comes out beautifully light with a texture that is not dissimilar to a steamed pudding.

Over the last couple of weeks this pudding has whipped up several times as it is very comforting on these cold winter evenings and takes no thought to prepare.  If the old man had his way it would be served with custard every time, but for Mumsy and I it is crème fraiche all the way.

If you are looking for a dead easy pudding this weekend, then this pud is a no brainer!

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Lemon Syrup Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 4oz soft margarine
  • 4oz plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2tbsp milk
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 2 heaped tsp golden syrup

Steps:

1.  Spoon the golden syrup into the bottom of a 1 litre microwaveable bowl (I use an old plastic ex- Christmas pudding bowl), then grease the sides with a little soft margarine.

2.  Place all the other ingredients together in another bowl and then beat together well using an electric whisk.

3.   Spoon the mixture on top of the golden syrup and then gently level it out.

4.  Place the pudding in the microwave and cook on a medium setting for 4 minutes.  Allow it to rest for 30 seconds and then cook for a further 4 minutes.

5.  Check that your pudding is completely cooked by seeing if a skewer comes out clean after being inserted into the middle.

6.  Tip the pudding out onto a plate (make sure it has a slight lip so that you do not lose any of the golden syrup) and serve!

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French Onion Soup with Cheese Croutons

I know it is a little late, but … Happy New Year to one and all!  I hope that everyone has had a suitably indulgent Christmas and New Year.  I have just returned from a trip to the UK –  just in time as the snow arrived two days ago and we have been snowed in ever since.  However, as I type this blog the first snow plough is passing along the top road, doubtless to the dismay of our neighbours’ children who are enjoying a ‘snow day’.

This type of weather demands warm food and I can think of nothing better than a good soup.  If you have got the time then French onion soup is delicious.  The secret to a good French onion soup is taking the time to let your onions soften completely otherwise you don’t get their beautifully sweet flavour coming through (and I think we all know about the side effect of uncooked onions…).

This type of soup tastes infinitely better if you use a good beef stock, not only as it gives a slightly richer flavour than a chicken stock, but it deepens the colour.  This is really a soup to try, but just make sure you don’t rush it. Enjoy.

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French Onion Soup with Cheese Croutons (Serves 6)

Ingredients:

For the soup:

  • 1kg onions (finely sliced)
  • 2/3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 4/5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1l stock (preferably beef stock)
  • 2 ½ glasses dry white wine
  • Seasoning

For the cheese croutons:

  • 6 slices of French bread
  • 100g grated Emmental or Gruyere

Steps:

1. Gently heat the oil in a large pan.

2.  Add the onions and sugar, cover with a lid and cook very gently, stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes on a low heat until they are soft.

3.  Add the thyme and the wine and cook for about 10 minutes on a slightly higher temperature.

4.  Then add the beef stock, season well and cook for a further 10-15 minutes.

5.  Just before you are ready to serve, remove the sprigs of thyme from the soup and make your croutons by toasting the slices of French bread, scattering over the cheese and then melting under a medium grill for 1-2 minutes.

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