Friday, 31 January 2014

Golden Syrup Steamed Sponge Pudding

Every now and again, nothing, absolutely nothing, beats a hot steamed sponge pudding...  Rib-sticking puddings are an essential part of the winter diet, and this is a classic of the genre.  There's no suet in the pudding, and steaming keeps it light and spongy.  Serve with lashings of proper custard and watch a grown man go weak at the sight!   Leftovers can be microwaved and returned to their steamy deliciousness.

I usually take some time to decorate my puddings and make them look attractive.  This was set upon and devoured before I had a chance!

Golden Syrup Steamed Sponge Pudding
Golden Syrup Steamed Sponge Pudding              

4oz/110g butter/spread
4oz/110g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tsp ginger)
6oz/175g self-raising flour
milk to mix if necessary

2 generous tbsp golden syrup plus extra syrup

Grease a 1.5 pint/900ml pudding basin and put the syrup at the bottom.   Beat all the remaining ingredients together in a food processor and add a little milk to produce a dropping consistency.  Pour the mixture into the pudding basin, cover with a hat of baking parchment tied with string (put a pleat in the middle to allow for the pudding to rise) and steam for 2 hours in a large, lidded saucepan, making sure that the water doesn’t come more than half way up the pudding basin. 

Just before the pudding is ready, heat some more syrup in the microwave.  Turn out the pudding and pour over the syrup. Serve with good thick custard.

This quantity will serve 4-5 hungry people.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Battenberg Cake

Battenberg is one of those child-appealing cakes which looks pretty and, when bought in a shop, probably tastes of nothing but sugar.  Perhaps it was for this reason I always refused to buy one for my children, saying that I could make it... but never did!  Having recently been reminded of this, and realised how much I was depriving my (now adult) sons, I thought I'd better repair the damage before it was too late.  This is especially for William, who ate my test sample with speed and delight - so much so that I think I'll have to make another one.... as you can see, my rectangles weren't absolutely precise, but it still tasted great!  If made with spread instead of butter this could be dairy-free (and gluten-free too if you used a flour blend).

Battenberg Cake

Battenberg Cake

3 large fresh eggs
6oz/150g  sieved self raising flour
6oz/150g  caster sugar
6oz/150g  butter or spread at room temperature
½ tsp vanilla essence

pink colouring (Dr Oetker’s tube shocking pink works best)
1 jar raspberry/strawberry jam (sieve if it has lumps!)
1 packet ¾ lb/350g or so almond paste
caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line a Swiss roll tin (12” x 8” or slightly smaller) with parchment, making a wall of parchment in the middle to keep the two colours apart.  Secure it with metal paper clips.  This is crucial!

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the cake ingredients together except for the colouring and then beat until pale and fluffy.   Put half into one side of the tin, then colour the second half and pour it into the other side.   Try to make sure it is half!   Cook for 15-25 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, the cake should have come away from the edges slightly, and if you put a (heated) knife or skewer into the middle, it will come out clean.

Tip the cakes out of the tin onto a wire rack and leave to cool.  When cool, trim the long slabs so that they are (roughly) the same size and cut each flat rectangle longways.  Spread the sides with jam and stick together so you get the chequerboard effect.  Roll out the almond paste/marzipan in caster sugar so it doesn’t stick to the board.   Now spread jam on the almond paste in a long strip about 1”/25mm in from one side and place the cake onto it.  Spread more jam around the sides and top of the cake, bend up the edge of the paste and roll it so you wrap the almond paste around the cake.  Trim the edges and pat the cake gently so it sticks together.   Score the top of the cake with a knife to make a criss cross pattern.  

Friday, 24 January 2014

Fruit Brulée

What do you do when you have a houseful of hungry men, and no time to make a proper pudding?  Why, a fruit Brulée....  Nearly instant, this delicious fresh fruit mixture topped with caramel, toasted almonds and cream is always an absolute hit.  My sister (the one who actually did a proper cookery course!) used to make this when she was working for Justin de Blank at GTC years ago, and the recipe has been very useful ever since.  This recipe is infinitely variable, but always involves fresh fruit, three different varieties, in different colours.   In the winter I tend to use pineapple, grapes and melon (in this case banana), and in the summer it looks fabulous with strawberries and raspberries.

 Fruit Brulée

Fruit Brulée

Choose 3 from:
1 pineapple
1 melon
bunch of grapes
3 bananas
2 oranges peeled and cut into chunks
2 nectarines

1oz/25g  toasted almonds

½ pint double cream (scale up as necessary)
small dollop of milk

3oz/35g caster sugar
2tbsps water

Chop the fruit into attractive sized pieces, heap in a serving dish so the fruits are nicely mixed.  Whip the cream and milk until it is nearly stiff, but not quite.  Arrange in large spoonfuls on top of the fruit, adding the toasted almonds.   Boil the sugar and water together until it forms a caramel, watching it until you just catch a whiff of that lovely caramel smell before it burns.   Pour over the top of the cream and nuts, and make sure it goes down into the fruit as well.  It will bubble and form a solid layer. 

Leave until the caramel has cooled. It is now ready to eat, and is best not put into a fridge.    This is not a pudding that can be made long in advance as the caramel will melt again.   If you are in a tearing hurry, you can make the caramel while you are cutting up the fruit and whipping the cream!   

This serves 6 or so.  

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Banana Bread - River Cottage recipe

Banana bread is one of the blessings in life, not least because it's a fabulous way to use up overripe bananas, in fact, the riper the better!   I will also be blogging my grandmother's fabulous banana bread, which contains whole cherries and nuts, but thought I'd try something different.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his River Cottage Cakes Handbook provided the perfect recipe.  Delicately spiced with cardamom, this is a delicious and easy to make bread which I made entirely in a Kenwood mixer (laziness rules!).   I made it for my son and his friends, and it vanished in a single session...

Cardamom spiced Banana Bread

Banana Bread

8oz/250g self-raising flour  
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cardamom (if you only have the pods, spill out the seeds and grind them up between two spoons or using a pestle and mortar)
4oz/100g butter at room temperature
5oz/125g caster sugar
4oz/100g raisins
2 ripe bananas (approx 8oz/250g peeled weight),  mashed
1 large egg, beaten
1 tbsp Demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C, and line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment.    Sift the flour, salt and cardamom into the mixer, add the butter and beat it at a medium speed until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar and raisins and continue mixing.  Finally, add the mashed bananas and egg and beat until it is all blended together.    Pour into the tin and sprinkle with the demerara sugar before baking for 45 minutes until it is well risen and browned (test by putting a hot knife blade into the middle – if it comes out clean the banana bread is cooked).  Allow to cool in the tin.

A good banana bread will keep for several days, if kept wrapped in foil and in a tin.  It is delicious with butter (but then, what isn’t?). 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Saffron Rice Pudding

I'm really into comfort puddings at the moment - this horrible weather and lack of daylight makes me feel like hibernating!   Bored with the usual pale rice pudding, I thought I'd try an alternative.   Saffron gives it the most beautiful rose-pink hue, and the lemon zest and juice give a kick to to the otherwise bland rice.  Rice pudding needs to be made with loving care, otherwise you end up with burned grains firmly attached to the bottom of the pan and your washers-up will hate you....    I tried making it in a bain-marie, but it took twice as long and I wasn't convinced the result was anything special.

Saffron Rice Pudding

Saffron Rice Pudding

1 pint/560ml milk
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons short grain (pudding) rice
large pinch of saffron
grated rind of a lemon
juice of half a lemon (or more to taste)

This basic 1:2:3 proportion makes enough for 3-4 people, and I usually make double.  

Put all the ingredients except for the lemon juice together in a large pan, and slowly bring to a very lazy boil, just above a simmer, stirring constantly to stop the milk from sticking on the base of the pan.  Stir until it has become thick and creamy – for about 15-20 minutes – when the rice is cooked but stll has a bit of bite.   Add the lemon juice (if you do it beforehand, it will curdle the milk).      Serve with a further pinch of saffron.     

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Irish Porter Cake

Much loved in Southern Ireland, this traditional cake is made with porter or stout (me neither!).   I made this as a tribute to my Irish aunt, who passed away recently, and whose funeral was celebrated with porter cake, as she loved it so much.  I used Shepherd Neame's Double Stout, as the Kentish alternative to porter or Guinness.   It makes a delicious dark cake, but watch the top, as it browns very quickly.   The recipe I found by the Ballymaloe Cookery School said it had to be cooked for 2.5 hours, but that was an over-estimate. You could make it with a spread instead of butter so that it was dairy-free.

Irish Porter Cake

Traditional Irish Porter Cake

1lb/450g plain flour
large pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
8oz/225g soft brown sugar
8oz/225g softened butter
4oz/110g glacé cherries
14oz/400g raisins/sultanas (or mixed)
2oz 50g chopped mixed peel
2 large eggs, beaten
10floz/300ml porter or stout

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, grease and line the base and sides of an 8” cake tin with non-stick baking parchment. 

Pour the porter onto the fruit and let it sit for a few minutes while you start the cake.  Sieve the flour, salt, spices and baking powder into a Kenwood/Kitchen Aid mixer.  Add the sugar and beat in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Drain and add the fruit (don’t throw the porter away!).   Mix the porter with the eggs, and add to the mixture.  Beat well.  Pour into the tin, and bake for about 1 ½ hours, turning the oven down to approx 160 deg C after the first hour.   If the cake looks as though it is getting too brown, protect the top with a piece of foil.  When it has cooked, leave in the tin and allow it to cool before storing it in an airtight tin. 

To test if the cake is cooked, a (warmed) knife or skewer stuck in to it should come out clean.  You can also hear it singing! 

Friday, 10 January 2014

Kate's Puddings Cookbook

Puddings aren't just for Christmas, they are for life!!!  Banish the New Year Blues with some truly delicious and heart-warming recipes from Kate's Puddings Cookbook.  Available on-line £ 14.50 plus postage.  A donation from the sale of each book will be made to two deserving charities.

I've had some wonderful feedback from people who've been given the book as a present, and want to carry on sharing the love of puddings.

Best wishes

Pineapple Sorbet

Another fabulous recipe from one of my favourite writers, Claire Macdonald.  This time it's a pineapple sorbet which, as she says, is a delicious pud to end a rich lunch or supper, especially in the winter when we tend to eat richer, more sustaining food.  It is ridiculously easy to make, and keeps in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.  It is both gluten and dairy free as well as being delicious!   There was too much for me to make in my trusty ice-cream maker, but the freezer worked very well.    What transforms frozen syrup into a delicious sorbet is beating it up - not quite complete here, as you can still see chunks of frozen pineapple!

Pineapple Sorbet

Pineapple Sorbet

1 medium sized pineapple
1.5pints/1 litre water
8oz/250g sugar
pared rind and juice of 2 lemons
2 egg whites

Put the water, sugar and rind into a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Boil fast for 5 minutes, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the juice.  Leave to cool (easy in this weather!).  Skin the pineapple and put the flesh into a food processor and blend it to a smooth purée. 

Strian the syrup and stir into the puree.  Put the mixture into a large polythene tub and freeze for 2-3 hours.  Remove from the freezer, add the egg whites, stiffly whisked, and return.  Freeze for another couple of hours, and then beat it up again.  This makes the sorbet light, with a smooth texture.

Claire’s tip for serving is to remove the container half an hour before serving, whilst putting the serving bowl into the fridge, so that the sorbet stays firm when you transfer it at the point of serving.  

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Sour Milk Scones

In that Christmas aftermath, when the fridge is groaning with food bought in the happy expectation of multitudes, but which is now on an extended half-life, left-over recipes really come into their own.   I won't be inflicting fried Christmas pudding on you (simply slice the pudding, fry in butter, eat!), but this is a great way of using up milk that would otherwise be thrown away.   The last batch I made was of milk that had totally separated, so needed a good shake to emulsify it again (hope none of my family is reading this!), and the scones came out feather-light.

Sour Milk Scones

Sour Milk Scones
8oz/225g plain flour  
½ level tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ level tsp cream of tartar
½ level tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
2oz raisins or sultanas
20g/2oz butter or margarine at room temperature
¼ pint/150ml sour milk

Preheat the oven to 230 deg C and put a baking tray to heat. 

Sieve together the flour, sugar, raising agents and the salt – Good Housekeeping recommends doing this twice, and they are right!   In a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour until they look like breadcrumbs.  The best way to do this is to use only your fingertips, as lightly as possible, lifting the mixture as you rub it in to keep it airy.   Add the raisins and mix in.   Make a well in the centre, pour in the sour milk and mix to make a soft dough.  

Continue to mix the dough together in the bowl until it forms a single lump, then turn it onto a floured board.  Knead very lightly (this is a scone, not bread!).

Pat the dough or roll it out to about ½ inch thick, then cut out your scones (they don’t stick to the cutter if you dip the cutter in flour first).   

Bake for about 8-10 minutes until well risen and golden.

Scones are best eaten warm, and on the day they are made.  Gluten free scones work, but will need approximately 1-2tbsp more sour milk – do this a little at a time so you don't swamp the dough. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Apricot Roulade

The first post for 2014 is this delicious apricot roulade, which is a lovely change from heavy Christmas food, and looks wonderful!  From the fabulous Claire Macdonald’s book More Seasonal Cooking (highly recommended for delicious puddings), it is made with dried apricots, so is an all year round favourite, but a great standby if, like me, you keep apricots in your store cupboard.  Like all roulades, it is gluten free too...

The only tricky bit for a roulade is transferring from the baking parchment to the plate, which I usually achieve by folding the parchment under itself just below the roulade when you put the roulade on the dish, and then peeling it from beneath.  Ideally you need three hands! 

Apricot Roulade
Apricot Roulade

1lb/500g dried apricots, (the recipes says soaked for a few hours, but I forget this every time and end up sticking them into boiling water to accelerate the process)
2 strips lemon peel
4oz/110g caster sugar
4 large eggs, separated

To serve:
grated rind of 1 lemon
3/4pint/400ml double cream, whipped
icing sugar to dust

swiss roll sized tin (12” x 14”.30 x 35cm approx) lined with parchment

Bring the soaked apricots to the boil in fresh water, adding the lemon peel.  Simmer for 35-40 minutes or until tender.  

Drain the cooked apricots while still hot, and put them into a food processor/large blender.  Blend until smooth, adding the caster sugar.   Remove 3 tbsp of the apricot purée for the filling.   Add the egg yolks, one by one, and blend until pale and thick.   Whisk the whites until stiff.    Fold in 1/3 egg white using a metal spoon - this will break up the texture and make it easier to fold in the rest of the egg whites afterwards.    Pour into lined swiss roll tin and spread it evenly.  Bake 20-25 minutes until pale golden brown and well risen.

Cool, still in the tin, covered with greaseproof paper under a damp cloth.  Turn out onto paper covered with sieved icing sugar, carefully peeling off the parchment.  Spread with whipped cream mixed with the rind and apricot purée and roll up from the long side using the paper to help achieve the classic roll shape.  Dust with more sugar before serving (it melts into the roulade quickly, so leave it until the last minute).