Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Apple and Raisin Flapjack Crumble

One way of combining two favourite puddings is to make a flapjack top for a crumble, instead of the usual sand/concrete mixture.   The apple bubbled up deliciously at the edges, while the lovely chewy flapjack top was the perfect antidote to a miserable winter lunchtime.  This is such a simple recipe, you must try it.... here I used apple and raisin as the crumble base, but the choice is yours.  Try to get the balance of sweet and sour right - you don't want a penitentially sour fruit base underneath all that lovely flapjack!

Apple and Raisin Flapjack Crumble

Apple and Raisin Flapjack Crumble

4-5 large cooking apples
brown sugar to taste
good handful of raisins

Flapjack Crumble:
6oz butter
6oz brown sugar
2tbs golden syrup
9oz whole jumbo oats
1oz plain flour (you could omit this for gluten-free crumble)

Preheat the oven to 180deg C, then peel and core the apples, then cut into chunks.  Put into a saucepan with a little water and simmer gently until the apples start to get fluffy at the edges but don’t lose their shape.     Add the sugar and raisins pour this into an 8” square (or equivalent) baking/pie dish.      

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together, then add the oats and flour (if using).  Stir well and then pour it all over the top of the fruit.    Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the top is lightly browned and starting to bubble. 

Serve with lashings of custard:

Egg Custard
This quantity makes half a pint (approx 300ml)

2 egg yolks
1oz/25g caster sugar
10floz/300ml  double cream mixed with milk (for the best result)
½ tsp cornflour
vanilla – either a few drops of liquid, or some of the paste inside a pod

Mix the yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla, using a small whisk.   In a milk pan (preferably non-stick), warm the cream/milk to blood heat.  Pour this mixture onto the yolk mix, whisking gently until it is all incorporated.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and heat it.  Change over to a wooden spoon, and stir the custard lovingly until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon.  If it splits and goes grainy, pour instantly into a cold bowl, add more cream/milk, and whisk hard.   You may be lucky!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Chocolate Rum and Raisin Brownies

My brownie recipe is one of my absolute favourites! The brownies are chewy, deliciously intensely chocolate flavoured, with a good Muscovado darkness as an aftertaste.   They are always positively hoovered up by my friends, singing teacher and choir!    This time I thought I’d use up some raisins steeped in rum (what strange leftovers I do have, to be sure!) to see if I could improve on perfection.   The verdict was – yes! yes! yes!  

They also work well being gluten free.   Like all dried fruits, raisins get better the longer you leave them in the steeping liquid.   Alcohol dries them out, so the warm sugar syrup is like the best anti-wrinkle treatment on earth - because you're worth it, darling....

Chocolate Rum and Raisin Brownies 
Chocolate, Rum and Raisin Brownies

4oz/110g plain chocolate
5oz/140g butter
4 ½ oz/125g plain flour (or rice flour)
½ oz/15g cocoa powder
10 ½ oz/300g soft muscovado sugar
1 pinch salt
2 eggs
½ tsp baking powder
2oz/50g chopped pecans
2oz/50g raisins steeped in
2tbsp rum
2tbsp sugar brought to the boil in 3tbsp water

Steep the raisins first.  If time is short, pour the hot syrup over the raisins, add the rum and leave while you are putting together the other ingredients.  If the raisins are not covered, add more rum. 

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line a baking tin (9” square, or oblong tin depending if you want the brownies thinner or thicker!) with non-stick baking parchment. 

Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave, stir the chocolate into the butter so it all mixes together (it is better to under-heat the chocolate and stir out the lumps using the residual heat in the butter).  

Sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder together.    In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs, adding the sugar.  Mix until just combined (this gives the best brownie texture).   Fold the melted chocolate into the beaten egg mix, then add the flour, drained raisins and nuts.   I also added some of the rummy syrup. 

Spread into the tin and cook for up to 25 minutes – the mixture will puff up a little in the tin, but it is better that it is undercooked rather than solid.    Cut into squares when cool, if you can wait that long! 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Winter Spiced Buns

Not everybody is on a diet, so here is something to warm the cockles of the wintriest heart!  This was an experimental ring of spicy fruit buns, iced together like a Christmas wreath.   I made it on Boxing Day for my son and his friends, and it was the perfect antidote to a long walk along the Kent coast with the howling wind, lashing rain and screaming seabirds.   Don't be put off by the fact that there is yeast involved - dried yeast is so easy to use, and your kitchen will smell like seventh heaven, just like every mum's kitchen should smell! As you can see from the picture below, I went a bit mad with the icing....

I had time to soak the fruit in sugar syrup so that the raisins and sultanas really plumped up, and the buns were extra squidgy and delicious.  If you are reading this and wanting to bake NOW, just bring the syrup to the boil and add the fruit quickly.  Even five minutes soaking while you are assembling other ingredients makes a difference.

Winter Spiced Buns

Winter Spiced Buns

1lb/450g strong plain flour (bread flour)
1 level tbsp dried yeast
1 level tsp caster sugar
¼ pt/150ml milk
4 tbsps/60ml water
1 level tsp salt
2 level tsps mixed spice
2 level tsps cinnamon
2 level tsps grated nutmeg (freshly grated is best!)
2oz/50g caster sugar
2oz/50g butter, melted
1 beaten egg
9oz/150g dried mixed fruit (soak these in sugar syrup if you have time)

to glaze:  2oz icing sugar
                handful of glacĂ© cherries 
                handful of flaked almonds                              Oven 190 deg C

If you have time, soak the fruit in sugar syrup – 4oz/110g sugar to ¼ pint/127ml water brought to the boil and left to cool before putting the fruit in overnight.   If time is short, stick the fruit in the syrup while it is hot, leave while you are assembling all the other ingredients, then drain off the syrup.   

In a large mixing bowl, put 4oz (110g) of the flour, adding the yeast and 1 level tsp sugar.  Warm the milk and water to approx 43 deg C – warmer than blood heat -  add to the flour and mix well.  Leave in a warm place until it is foamy – 20 minutes approx.

Mix together the remaining flour (12oz/350g), salt, spices and 2oz/50g sugar.   Into the frothy yeast mix stir the butter and egg, then add the flour mix and then the drained fruit.    This makes a very soft dough.   Turn onto a floured worktop and knead it until smooth.  Put back into the big bowl, cover with a cloth, and leave to rise until doubled in size – about 1 – 1 ½ hrs.      After that, turn the dough out again, and knead it again (about 2-3 minutes minimum each time).     

Cut the dough into 12 pieces, and shape into rolls.  Put them onto a floured baking sheet in a compact ring, cover with oiled clingfilm or a light cloth, then leave for another 30 minutes to prove.    Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.    When you take them out, you won’t get the entire ring together, so just do it in sections and reassemble it later.   Allow to cool.  Mix up the icing so that it is of dropping consistency (this might mean more icing sugar when you inevitably tip in too much water), and ice the buns, topping with halved glacĂ© cherries and flaked almonds.     

Monday, 5 January 2015

Pineapple Carpaccio with Caramelised Walnuts

Is the most depressing thing about New Year the endless magazine and newspaper articles about boringly abstemious diets?  As a pudding lover, I find this relentless food fascism very irritating, especially in the English winter, where a good pudding will keep out the cold far better than a couple of fancy dandelion leaves....  and you can tell Gwyneth Paltrow I said so!   Having said all that, this is my token "diet pudding" - a really quick and easy fruit carpaccio - light, refreshing and healthy.    Don't worry, I'll be back on form next time with some delicious winter iced buns....

Pineapple Carpaccio with Caramelised Walnuts

Pineapple Carpaccio with Caramelised Walnuts

1 pineapple, peeled  
2oz/50g walnut pieces
2oz/50g dark soft brown sugar
2oz/50g butter
Fresh basil (or mint)
2 tbsp rum

Slice the pineapple in rounds as thinly as you can, using a bread knife.  I then cored it (maybe I should have done this first!), as I thought the inner parts were still a bit too woody to be acceptable.  Arrange the pineapple on a flat serving dish and pour on the rum.

In a frying pan, bubble together the sugar and butter and drop in the walnuts.  Fry for a couple of minutes until the sugar and butter have coated the walnuts and they are slightly caramelised (if in doubt, don’t do this for too long as it will burn).

Sprinkle the caramelised walnuts and any delicious caramelised lumps of sugar on the pineapple.  Decorate with strips of fresh basil or mint.