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orange and lemon cake

November 24th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in recipe

Having made the Christmas cake yesterday, I was all set to make some mincemeat.

I started by blitzing an orange and a lemon in the food processor, and then pulled opened the baking cupboard to get at all the other ingredients (they’re all kept in a pull out cupboard).  And there, on the top shelf, was a huge jar of mincemeat from last year. And we don’t eat much …

So, what to do with a pair of marmalised citrus fruit? Make a cake!

1 orange
1 lemon
100g butter or marge
120g granulated sugar
2 eggs
140g desiccated coconut
100g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
100ml natural yoghurt

Whizz the citrus fruit first – cut it into chunks, then hurl it in, peel, pith and all.

Then add the other ingredients and whizz some more.

Decant into a 2lb loaf tin (either well greased, or use a liner), bake for about 45 minutes at 180C. I suggest you use the fan setting, rather than the grill – it works better :)

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a day of kitchen mishaps

November 24th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in general

I made the Christmas cake yesterday morning, after boiling the fruit up with sugar and butter and brandy on Saturday. It, thankfully, seems fine. However …

A chicken went in the oven to roast on a bed of vegetables. Roast potatoes went on top in another dish, as did a coconut and citrus cake (see later post).

Spuds were doing beautifully, but the cake caught, so I took it out. Chicken appeared to be done ((juices running clear) but bed of veg was not. Investigated.

1. Had put oven on wrong setting – top heat/grill, this is why cake burned

2. Had put chicken in upside down.

3. Discovered all this when everything else was done.

Then the kitchen ring blew …

Pete reset the ring, then we took the spuds out, set oven to correct incantation (bloody Neff – far too complicated),  and returned the chicken to its roasting place. And we opened a bottle of wine.

Then, when it was cooked (and dinner was only forty minutes late), I bunged the cake back in the oven for twenty minutes, and it’s fine if we cut the burnt bits off.

I did make some scones for supper, and they were OK too, but it was a trying day.

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a nibbled lemon cake

November 14th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in general

lemon cake - nibbled by kittens

There was a lemon waiting to be used up (I generally use lemon juice in my cooking, as it’s so much cheaper), and a pot of plain yogurt in the fridge, and no cake in the cake box. So I had a bit of a google, as you do, and found a recipe on Nigella’s site (which I could probably have found in one of the many Nigella books I own, but the interwebs is quicker). Here’s the original recipe.

I do apologise for the photograph, but I left the cake on its final cool in the box, and THE BLOODY KITTENS NIBBLED IT. Sorry, but really – virtually nothing edible is safe from their little sharp white pointy teeth.

After the success of the orange and chocolate cake, where I just hurled the orange into the food processor and mashed it up I thought I’d try the same result. We tried just half a slice last night, and I’m not yet sure it worked – seemed little depth to the flavour, but I’ll revisit it tonight.

1 lemon (the recipe called for just the zest)
150g  plain flour
100g granulated sugar
5 fl oz natural yoghurt
5 fl oz vegetable oil
2 medium eggs
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

I blitzed the whole lemon in the Magimix, then added the rest of the ingredients, and whizzed some more. Then I just poured the mixture into a paper case inside a loaf tin, and baked it at 180C/gas 4 for about 55 minutes. The recipe said 35-40, but I suspect it took longer as I had a wetter batter.

And it sank spectacularly quickly within five minutes of its exit fom the oven, but it’s cake – what’s not to like?

But I will swing for those kittens … Should you be interested, you can find them on Facebook.

yet another risotto

November 12th, 2014 | Comments Off | Posted in recipe

IMG_3291

Actually, that’s unfair, because we haven’t had a risotto in ages. But we did last night.

We bought a pack of chicken thighs in Aldi last week. Pete manfully skinned and filleted them on Saturday, and they’ve been stowed in the freezer (yes, for this was just *before* PumpkinGate) for stir fries or whatever; the cats had the skin, with much enjoyment but no gratitude *at all*, and I slung the bones in the baby slow cooker with some water, with a view to soup making. But then, after the Graet Pumpkin War of 2014, soup was already well over-catered, and I couldn’t freeze this stock either.

I reboiled the bones yesterday, and it made a lovely gelatinous stock. Which seemed absolutely ideal for a risotto, especially as there were little shreds of chicken as well. So I strained the bones out, and rinsed them off with boiling water, to get every drop of chickeny goodness from them, and then topped that up to a pint*.

Sliced a leek and a red pepper, and set them to saute off in a little olive oil and butter. Then added 5oz of Arborio rice and stirred it round to coat it, and then started adding the stock bit by bit, stirring all the time. During the process, I discovered that making risotto is yet another thing that doesn’t go with  watching Borgen with subtitles; no wonder it’s taking me so long to get through it. I digress.

When about 75% of the stock was added, I seasoned with salt and black pepper, and when all the stock was absorbed, I added half a block of feta cheese and stirred until it was melted.

And I can tell you that, although a bowl of risotto in those quantities (we halved it, obviously) doesn’t look much, it’s plenty, and it was delicious.

 

*This is one of the few recipes I still cook in imperial – easier to remember the mantra of 1 pint / 5 oz.

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an instant cake mix

November 11th, 2014 | Comments Off | Posted in general

Wright's ginger cake mix

 

I know, I know, it’s shocking, but sometimes you just get carried away in the moment …

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of slow cookers, and own three of varying sizes. I belonged, briefly, to a slow cooker group on Facebook, but mostly the members used theirs to put in meat and a couple of jars of cooking sauce, and that isn’t really what I do. However, for some of them, slow cookers seemed almost a religion. They tried *everything* in them. One person – honestly – was cooking full English breakfasts overnight in theirs. It seemed somehow grounds for excommunication if you didn’t buy into this, and I left.

But I was intrigued by using a slow cooker to bake a cake. Apparently, it couldn’t be just any cake, it had to be a Wright’s cake mix. I have no idea why. Caught up in the religious zeal,  I bought a ginger cake mix from Aldi – I think it was about £0.80 – but sanity prevailed and it stayed in the cupboard.

And then, the other day, the oven was on for something, and there was no cake in the cake box, and I thought “why not?”. So I mixed it up with the mandatory oil and water, and then chopped up some dates and added them, and then I baked it.

The first slice off was quite dry, but we didn’t worry – it could easily be turned into a sticky toffee pudding. But then, on the second day, it was really not bad. And by day #4, yesterday, it was actually nice.  Not nearly as nice as I could make myself, but then a lot cheaper and easier. As I am shortly off to Aldi for some bits, I may invest in the other varieties.

But I’m not doing them in the slow cooker, because really …

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the battle of the pumpkin

November 10th, 2014 | Comments Off | Posted in general

Baby Pumpkin Snack

[image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/blissfulgirl/

I bought a pumpkin. First time ever, I think, because I’m not fond of Hallowe’en as a holiday – what’s wrong with bobbing for apples, eh? But we were going to a Sunday gathering at friends, and I thought a seasonal offering might be nice. I was planning a pumpkin gingerbread, only to discover that mine hostess already had a parkin on the go. And then time ran out, and the dog ate my cookery books, and it didn’t get used.

This monster pumpkin sat on the dining table, and guilt-tripped me every time I went passed it, so I vowed on Sunday to tackle the wretched thing in all its orangey pumpkinness. My plan was to roast it off, then bung most of it in the freezer for future soups, together with a tub with the last of  the current soup (I like a starter soup, bit like a sourdough starter. But soupier).  And a tub of plainish pumpkin purée for baking,  “A fine plan“, you cry, and it would have been; except there wasn’t a cubic inch of space in the bloody freezer, which seems mysteriously to have been filled almost exclusively with tubs of lentil and cauliflower curry. No, I don’t know either.

By the time I discovered this, I had dismembered the wretched vegetable (yes, I should have checked earlier, OK?). I was also slightly taken aback by just how much pumpkin a pumpkin holds.To buy some time, I distributed about two thirds of it onto a roasting tray, with some onions and carrots, olive oil and a drizzle of honey, and the rest on a roasting tray with just a little oil. And I even cleaned and roasted the bloody seeds (no waste here, no sirree Bob).

No amount of staring at the freezer, or rearranging its contents, conjured up any more space, so Plan B was brought into play (after it had been somewhat hastily formulated). Clearly last week’s soup would need to be eaten rather than frozen, but there wasn’t much of it. What there was was some vegetable tagine made a couple of weeks ago, which wasn’t really very nice; I’d overdone the harissa ever so slightly. Two tubs of that were removed from the freezer, thawed, and blitzed in the Magimix. The plain roasted pumpkin (just starting to catch on the edges) suffered the same fate.  They were both added to the Big Red Soup Pot. This made – hurrah – some space in the freezer.

The squash-with-other-veg was boxed up and put into the gap left by the veg tagine, and thus we will have soup for the next week or two without me having to chop endless bloody vegetables.

So I did beat this pumpkin, but it was a close run thing.

the desiccated orange made a chocolate orange cake

October 21st, 2014 | Comments Off | Posted in recipe

an orange

Dear Reader, I have a confession to make. I had to throw out an orange. Oh, the shame. We’re not very good with fruit – we buy it, and then we don’t eat it, so this orange had languished in the bowl for quite a while, and had gone mouldy. It was accompanied by a companion orange which had not yet succumbed, and turned out to be really quite dry, still …  as we were out of cake, I did a quick Google, and adapted a recipe I found, thus:

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 180ml water
125g butter, softened (I used baking marg)
180g granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
1 orange
85g dark chocolate, chopped

(The recipe called for 200g chocolate, which would have been overpowering, I think).

Preheat the oven to 180°C / fan 160°C / gas mark 4.

Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the water and set to one side. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well, then add flour and salt.

Roughly chop the whole orange into chunks by hand and then blitz in a food processor, skin and all. Add this to the cake batter along with the water and bicarbonate of soda, and stir.

Add the chocolate and stir through gentlye. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin (I used a 2lb loaf tin with a liner, and as always, blessed whoever made these available for sale, otherwise grease and flour) )and bake about an hour  until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. The recipe I adapted said 40-45 minutes, but that wasn’t nearly long enough, but check and check.

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everyday bread

October 13th, 2014 | Comments Off | Posted in recipe

bread

Inspired by A Girl Called Jack’s recipe, I make a loaf of this most weekends. It keeps well, makes lovely toast, and never goes wrong. But I have tweaked it a bit. so here’s my version.

250g wholemeal flour
400g plain flour – or strong white flour, or even a mix of the two
7g packet dried fast action yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
400ml warm water (*not too hot*)

You can jazz this up with, e.g., fennel or pumpkin seeds if you like.

Put the flours into a large mixing bowl (or you can use a mixer with a dough hook, but it’s not as much fun), and add the yeast, sugar and salt. And the optional seeds.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the water. Too hot will kill the yeast. And if you want to prove the bread overnight, you can use cold water. Stir it all in gently, then tip it on to a clean, floured worktop and start kneading. Plenty of tutorials on YouTube if you don’t know how. It’ll knead^H^H need about five minutes or so of working.  Take a tiny piece of dough, stretch it and hold it up to the window – if you can see through it, it’s ready!

Pop into a clean bowl (you can grease it if you like, but I often forget), cover with clingfilm, and leave to rise for a couple of hours, or even overnight. When it’s about doubled in size, tip it out, knock it back, and form it into something loaf-shaped – I generally do a sort of sausage because it’s easier to slice, but it can be round if you prefer. Put it on a baking sheet, floured if you’re very confident of its non-stickness, or greased if not, make a couple of deep slashes in the top, and sprinkle some flour over the top.

I usually leave it another 40 minutes or so before baking for about 50 minutes at Gas4/180C – preheat the oven, of course! It it’ll be done if it sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.

Then wait for it to cool before eating – that’s the difficult part.

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winter is coming

October 13th, 2014 | Comments Off | Posted in general

plums

Well, rather, autumn is here, and we’re back to more suitable cooking for the season.

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen this weekend; I made bread, pizza dough, and peanut butter and choc chip cookies on Saturday (recipes to come, I promise, but I’m still tweaking a bit), and on Sunday I did lamb and veg soup (or at least the components thereof), plum, apple and five spice crumble.

The soup involved roasting off £1.20’s worth of lamb bones from Morrisons, then boiling them down for stock, then picking the meat off them. There was actually enough meat for two big pots of soup, so some has gone in the freezer. Then I very finely chopped ¼ swede, 1 leek, 2 carrots and 1 courgette (takes bloody ages, but I never feel the food processor does it as well), and put them in the medium slow cooker with a glug of olive oil, and about ½” of water. Then this morning I married up stock, lamb and veg, together with 1 litre of veg soup left over from *last* week. That will do us for lunches for this week, with some crispbread or whatever.

The market stall in Hull was selling 2lbs of plums for a quid – rude not to, really. So I bought them, a *huuuuge* green cabbage, a cauliflower, and two Bramleys, for £3. Most of the plums went into a crumble – I say “most”, because I couldn’t fit them all into the pan. How I wish I had room for another freezer.

I halved them, and laid them flat in a heavy based frying pan, sprinkled with five space, and added about 1″ of water. Simmered until they were soft, then decanted them into a dish, and cooked the syrup right down. Added a peeled and chopped Bramley, topped with a oaty crumble mix and … nectar.

Pete constructed a pizza on Saturday – I use 500g of flour for dough, and it makes three pizzas for us, and freezes well. He used some smoked salami that we discovered in Aldi (along with various other stuff), and very nice it was too.

Sunday we dined on venison steak and braised red cabbage (both out of the freezer), and potatoes roasted with olive oil and rosemary. And the aforementioned crumble. It’s amazing how little meat we want these days – a 300g venison steak was plenty between us, and we used to eat 400g steaks each in the day.

This week, we will be mostly eating cabbage, I suspect. And soup. :)

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pasta with chicken, mushrooms and blue cheese

September 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off | Posted in recipe

danish blue cheese

We bought some chicken breasts from our fabulous butcher up t’road, wrapped them individually, and froze them. And then fetched one out at the weekend to make a stir fry and, readers, it was *huge*. Well, huge to us, because we don’t eat much meat. So we used half in the stir fry, and the other half was confined to the fridge for another day.

Regular readers will know that Tuesday night is pasta night, so last night I chopped up the remaining chicken into small pieces and fried it off in some olive oil. Added four wizened mushrooms, half a wrinkly red pepper, and a chopped onion (£1.80 for 4kgs from the Turkish shop). Added about 30g of Danish blue and stirred it round till it had melted, and a good grinding of black pepper.

Served over spaghetti – delicious.  It’s worth keeping a chunk of blue cheese in the fridge, as it livens up pasta sauces, and makes great cheese scones (although you get quite sticky making them).

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