Apple, Walnut & Custard Cake

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IMG_20140831_170246[1] 31/08/2014

Very moist with a pudding-like texture, the cake has nuggets of thick vanilla custard and poached apple hidden throughout. This can be eaten cold as a nice afternoon cake or served warm as I did as an easy Sunday pudding. 

Add a pinch of mixed spice to the apples for an extra bit of autumnal spice if you like. 

Ingredients:        

For the custard:

  • 175ml milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Cornflour
  • 1 egg

For the apple and walnut filling:

  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 3-4 cooking apples, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 75ml brandy
  • 75ml water
  • 75g chopped walnuts

For the cake:

  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 75g margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder

 Method:

  1. Whisk all the custard ingredients together in a saucepan until smooth, then bring to the boil, continuing to whisk all the time until thick. Spoon the custard into a bowl and chill until very firm.
  2. Place all the apple and walnut filling ingredients in a saucepan and cook over a high heat until the liquid evaporates then leave to cool.
  3. To make the cake, beat the sugar and margarine until light and smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time until evenly mixed through. Stir in the flour and baking powder.
  4. Line the base of a deep 20cm cake tin with non-stick baking paper.
  5. Chop the custard roughly then fold through the cake mix. Scrape the mix into the tin then place spoonfuls of the apples and walnuts on top and swirl slightly through with a teaspoon.
  6. Bake at 180C for 50-60 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

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This would also be nice drizzled with maple syrup and crème fraíche or unadulterated double cream. The cake keeps beautifully in the fridge to have with a cuppa the next day too.

This recipe is adapted from Dan Lepard’s ‘Short & Sweet‘ and reminded me of a bread and butter pudding crossed with an apple crumble. Just when I thought I was getting sick of apples,this really went down well. 

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Oaty Apple Mini Muffins

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IMG_20140830_000646[1] 30/08/2014

You guessed it, more apple related recipes. I’m sure those things reproduce overnight. 

Anyway, these are great for breakfast or as a light snack. They contain no butter and very little sugar. The mix is quite runny when spooning it into the tins but as the muffins bake, the liquid is soaked up by the oats and raisins which go lovely and plump and juicy. The teaspoon of cinnamon and the nuttiness from the milk resemble the flavours of a traditional apple pie. The nuts and coconut are optional here but add texture against the smooth pops of baked apple chunks. Packed with slow release energy oats, a few of these teamed with a freshly brewed mug of coffee = a winning start to the day.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ¼ light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk (I used alpro hazelnut milk)
  • ½ cup coconut milk – you can omit, just replace with another 1/2 cup of milk
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce (heat 2 chopped, peeled and cored apples in a pan with a small amount of water until they cook down to a puree)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 apple, cored, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • ½ cup raisins
  • Optional: nuts, desiccated coconut

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Very lightly grease cupcake pans with vegetable oil and set aside.
  2. In large bowl mix together oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together milk, coconut milk, applesauce, and egg whites.
  4. Add wet ingredients to the oat mixture and mix until combined.
  5. Carefully fold in apple pieces and raisins (and nuts and coconut if using).
  6. In prepared cupcake pans, fill each cup about ¾ full.
  7. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until tops are browned.
  8. Remove the muffins and let cool for 10 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Makes 24 mini muffins.

Preserves

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IMG_20140827_153529[1] 27/08/2014

I have a great big cooking apple tree in my garden and each year I always struggle with what to do with all the fruit it produces. There are only so many apple pies and crumbles a girl can eat so I thought a good way to enjoy them all year round would be to make some different preserves with them.

It’s also a great way to use all the spare jars that I’ve accumulated ‘just in case’. 

Bramley Lemon Curd – Makes 5 x 225g jars

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Ingredients:

  • 450g Bramley apples, weight when peeled, cored and chopped
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 2 unwaxed ­lemons (you need 100ml strained juice)
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 4–5 large eggs, well beaten (you need 200ml beaten egg)

Method:

  1. Put the chopped apples into a pan with 100ml water and the lemon zest. Cook gently until soft and fluffy then beat to a puree with a wooden spoon and rub through a nylon sieve.
  2. Put the butter, sugar, lemon juice and ­apple puree into a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. As soon as the butter has melted and the mixture is hot and glossy, pour in the eggs through a sieve, and whisk with a balloon whisk.
  3. If the fruit puree is too hot when the beaten egg is added, the egg will split. Check the temperature with a sugar thermometer — it should be no higher than 55–60C when the egg is added.
  4. If your curd does split, take the pan off the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth.
  5. Stir the mixture over a gentle heat, ­scraping down the sides of the bowl every few minutes, until thick and creamy.
  6. This will take 9–10 minutes; the temperature should reach 82–84C on a sugar thermometer. ­Immediately pour into jars and seal.

Once opened, keep in the fridge. This is lovely on toast, swirled through yoghurt or icecream, as a filling for pies and tarts and even straight off a spoon (don’t judge me).

Crab Apple Chutney – will give approx 12 x 220ml jars.

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Ingredients:

  • 2kg mix of crab and cooking apples (whatever you have) peeled, cored and chopped into little cubes.
  • 450g demerara sugar
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4tsp turmeric
  • approx 20 cloves
  • 500ml apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2tsp salt
  • 10cm ginger, finely chopped
  • Fresh Thyme (optional) 

Method:

  1. Place the apples in a heavy based saucepan. Stir in all other ingredients, cover and bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low and stir chutney, be sure it doesn’t stick. Cook uncovered for about 1 hr to 90 minutes, depending on size of cubes, cooking apples will fall apart but crab apples won’t. Stir regularly, it will reduce and thicken. Leave to cool completely then pour into sterilised jars and label.

Keeps for months and tastes at its best after the first month.

Apple and Blackberry Jam – makes approx 6 jars

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Ingredients:

  • 600g Blackberries, washed & drained
  • 500g Cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into berry sized chunks
  • 1kg Granulated sugar
  • 300ml Water
  • 10g Butter

Method:

  1. Put the water and apple chunks in a preserving pan and simmer gently until soft (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add the blackberries, bring to the boil and simmer until soft (about 15 – 20 minutes).
  3. Add the sugar off the heat stirring to dissolve the crystals.
  4. Heat the pan gently to ensure all the sugar dissolves then boil rapidly for 10 minutes.
  5. Take off the heat and test a large drop of jam on a chilled saucer and if it crinkles after a couple of minutes then it’s ready.
  6. If not, boil for another 2 minutes and repeat the test until ready.
  7. Remove excess scum with a slotted spoon and then stir in the butter to remove the rest.
  8. Ladle into sterilised jars.

I store mine under the stairs in a cool, dark cupboard. The jam keeps for ages this way and it also probably has something to do with all the sugar too.

I normally find homemade jam recipes extremely sweet so I only used 700g sugar in this batch and sound it was spot on. The fruit doesn’t become lost in a syrupy gloop this way and you are left with a few chunks of fruit running through the jam which are great to bite into when spread on toast for your breakfast.

While collecting blackberries for the jam recipe, I got a bit berry happy and picked way too many. The result? Blackberry vinegar… ok, and another blackberry and apple crumble.

Blackberry Vinegar (approx 1 litre)

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Ingredients:

  • 45og (1lb) blackberries
  • 600ml (1 pint) apple cider vinegar
  • 450g (1lb)granulated sugar

Method:

  1. Place the fruit and vinegar in a covered bowl and leave to steep for 3-5 days stirring occasionally. Strain the liquid and measure it. Add 450g (1lb) of sugar for every 600ml (pint) of juice and heat gently in a pan until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Pour into sterilised bottles when cool.
  2. Put the blackberries in a large bowl. Make sure they are no more than 2 inches deep.
  3. Pour on enough apple cider vinegar to cover them.
  4. Now cover and leave for 3 to 5 days, depending on how time-strapped you are. Leaving them longer will simply impart a stronger bramble flavour.
  5. Now grab a muslin bag and strain the blackberries for twelve hours, suspending them over a bowl to catch the drips.
  6. Measure the juice collected and add it to a saucepan. For every 1/2 pint of juice, add 1/2lb of sugar.
  7. Bring the liquid up to boil, while at the same time stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Once boiling, simmer for five minutes.
  8. If a frothy scum appears on the top of the blackberry liquid, skim it off.
  9. Wait for the liquid to cool before pouring into suitable, sterile bottles.

At the end of step 5, I squeezed the bag of blackberries to get every last bit of juice out of them. The end result gives you slightly thicker vinegar than if you didn’t squeeze the bag at all but this is definitely a good thing. The sauce clings to whatever you put it with. I recommend using it on pancakes or icecream.

Finally, I give you more jam. I don’t even have plum trees but I came across one hanging invitingly over a neighbour’s fence and they weren’t using them so… I permanently borrowed some.

Vanilla, Rum & Plum Jam

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Adding the rum and vanilla to plums produces a luxurious jam that’s perfect served on warm buttered toast or English muffins at tea time. Also you can serve this incredible jam as an accompaniment to strong cheese, or sliced with roast duck or pork.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. plums, halved, pitted, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup rum

Method:

  1. Put the plums, sugar, water and lemon juice in a heavy pot. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the inner seeds. Add bean and seeds to the pot. Bring the mixture to the boil.
  2. Simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens up, about 30 minutes. Add rum and move a pot from heat. Remove the vanilla bean and discard.
  3. Spoon the jam into warmed, sterilized jars. Seal, label, and store in a cool, dark place.

Please be careful when working with any of these recipes as boiled sugar is super-hot. Use a funnel to help fill the jars and prevent spills.

It is important to seal your jars as soon as they are filled so they remain sterile however, exercise caution when labelling and storing. Leave the jars to cool once sealed to avoid burns.

You could purchase some nice pretty jam jars (and not be stingy like me) then these preserves would be perfect to give away as gifts too.

Jamaican Patties

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IMG_20140826_143836[1] 26/08/2014

‘Ear me now! So this recipe came about when my friends and I went to the Caribbean Carnival in Nottingham last weekend. There was music, a parade, rides and loads of food. Jerk chicken BBQ pits covered one side of the field and the smells were awesome as you walked by. 

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I tucked into a big tray of curried mutton, rice and peas and hardly ate for the rest of the day. Fall off the bone, tender meat in a thick curried gravy. Yum. There were patties with various fillings on offer too but I managed to resist because, I’m just going to go out there and say it, my recipe is better! I’ve made these for a Jamaican friend of mine before who has likened them to his mum’s. High praise indeed. 

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The pastry has a little bit of lard for crispness and a little wholemeal flour for texture. I used lean mince so the filling remains velvety and not greasy. The filling should be lovely and juicy but not too runny or the pastry will become soggy. 

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 2 Tbsp Sunflower oil
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece Ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 Red chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • 500g Lean (5% fat) beef mince
  • 3 Tbsp Medium curry powder
  • A few good twists of black pepper
  • 390g Carton of chopped tomatoes
  • 50ml Beef stock (or oxo cube)
  • A good glug of Worcestershire sauce

For the pastry:

  • 350g Plain flour
  • 100g Wholemeal flour
  • 2 Tbsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 175g Margarine, chilled
  • 50g Lard, chilled
  • 7 Tbsp Ice-cold water (approx)
  • 1 egg beaten, to glaze (optional)

How to make Jamaica Patties:

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onions and fry for a few minutes until softened but not browned. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the mince, curry powder and pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring until the meat is browned all over. Add the tomatoes, beef stock and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 20 minutes until the meat is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Allow to cool.
  3. To make the pastry, put the wholemeal flour, plain flour, turmeric and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut the margarine and lard into the mix using a knife then gently rub everything together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the cold water and combine until the mixture comes together. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Roll the pastry out on a floured work surface to a thickness of 3-5mm.
  5. Stamp out 10 rounds using a 5.5cm (2¼inch) saucer. You may need to re-roll the trimmings to make 10.
  6. Put a generous spoonful of the mince mixture on one side of the pastry round, leaving a 1cm (½inch) border around the edge. Brush edges with water, then fold the pastry over the mince. Press the edges together to seal and mark with a fork. Cut a couple of holes in the top of each patty.
  7. Lift onto a lined baking tray, brush with egg to glaze (optional) and bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is golden, the base is firm and the filling piping hot. Cool on wire racks. 

These could be frozen if you don’t plan on eating them straight away. They are fairly substantial and I always have leftovers when I make them. They keep well for a couple of days in an airtight container and are lovely warmed through in the oven for a few minutes. If freezing them, wrap in a zip-loc bag then when ready to use, wrap loosely in foil to prevent the pastry burning and bake in a 200C oven for 25-30 minutes or until the filling is piping hot.  

It would be a great idea to add some vegetables to these too. My fridge was decidedly bare by the time I got round to making these so I didn’t add any but bell peppers would work well or even peas.  

Inari Sushi

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IMG_20140802_095909[1] 24/08/2014

Excuse the crude picture of the inari pockets on a plastic toddler plate but I got so excited when these were ready that it was the closest thing I had to hand and I couldn’t wait to try them.

On a basic level, these are big balls of rice in tofu skins but the preparation and seasoning techniques make them a bit special. There are a few steps to go through but all are nice and simple and the end result is so tasty.

Don’t be put off if unfamiliar with any of the ingredients either. They are all easily obtainable from good Asian grocers. Alternatively, leave them out. Feel free to experiment with flavours of your own. I mixed some home-grown parsley into my sushi rice mix instead of using shiso leaves and topped with a slice of sushi ginger.  

To make the Inari-Age for the sushi (Makes 12)

Ingredients:

  • 6 Abura Age (deep fried tofu pouches)
  • 1 cup dashi stock or a good slug of fish sauce mixed with water
  • 5 Tbsp. sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce

Instructions:

  1. Cover the Abura Age with plastic wrap and roll a rolling pin over the Abura Age. This step helps to open the pouch.
  2. Cut the Abura Age in half if not already opened out into pockets.
  3. Add the Abura Age in boiling water and cover with a plate or lid slightly smaller than the pan so it holds the Abura Age under the stock. Boiling for 3 minutes should be enough to reduce the smell and oil from the deep-fried Abura Age.
  4. Discard the water and quickly rinse Abura Age under cold water. Squeeze the excess water out gently.
  5. In a large pot, combine dashi stock, sugar, and soy sauce and bring to a boil.
  6. Add the Abura Age in the pot and place plate or lid on.
  7. Cook the Abura Age on medium low heat for 15 minutes until the liquid is 90% evaporated and absorbed into the Abura Age. Remove from the heat and let it cool down.
  8. Gently squeeze out the liquid (but not completely) and save the liquid in a separate bowl. You use this liquid to make Inari Sushi.

To make the Inari Sushi (Makes 12)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cup cooked sushi rice (1 cup for approx 4 Inari Sushi)
  • 1 Tbsp. roasted white or black sesame seeds
  • 12 Inari-Age (seasoned deep-fried tofu pockets)
  • The cooking liquid from Inari Age
  • 12 shiso leaves
  • 12 seasoned nori seaweed
  • Sushi ginger (gari) for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Prepare sushi rice using reserved stock and top up water as needed.
  2. Add sesame seeds and mix together.
  3. Open the Inari-Age pocket so you can put rice all the way in.
  4. Moisten hands with the liquid from Inari-Age. Take a small handful of rice and make a small rice ball. Do not make it too big otherwise it won’t fit in Inari-Age.
  5. Wrap each rice ball with shiso and a piece of nori and stuff the rice ball into the Inari-Age. Close the Inari-Age and place open-end down on a plate
  6. Another method is to keep the bag open on top. Wrap each rice ball with a piece of nori and stuff the rice ball into the Inari-Age. Then place shiso on top.
  7. Tuck in the edge of Inari-Age inside the pocket so you will have nice smooth round edge. You can decorate the top as you like.
  8. Serve cold with sushi ginger.

These keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. They are also very nice dipped in soy sauce or balsamic vinegar. 

Cookies & Cream Cupcakes

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IMG_20140823_144128[1] 23/08/2014

Using shop-bought cookies for these cupcakes works really well but there’s no reason you can’t go all out, make your own favourite batch of double chocolate cookies and use them instead. 

There are cookies in the cake mix, the butter-cream frosting and on top. Cookie overload! But there’s nothing wrong with that.

Ingredients:

For the sponge:

  • 70g/ 2 ½oz unsalted butter or margarine, softened
  • 170g/ 6 oz plain flour
  • 250g/ 9oz caster sugar
  • 50g/ 1 ¾oz cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 210ml/ 7 ½fl oz whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 12-16 double chocolate cookies (I used Maryland)

For the frosting:

  • 500g/ 1lb 2oz icing sugar, sifted
  • 160g/ 5 ½oz unsalted butter or margarine, softened
  • 60ml/ 2fl oz whole milk
  • 8 double chocolate cookies, crushed into small pieces and crumbs.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C and line deep muffin tins with paper muffin cases to make the number you require.
  2. To make the sponge, beat the butter/margarine, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together with a hand-held electric whisk until everything forms a crumb-like consistency.
  3. In a jug, mix together the milk and eggs.
  4. With the whisks on a slow speed, gradually pour half of the liquid into the crumb mixture and mix thoroughly until well combined. Raise the speed of the whisks and beat very well until the batter is smooth and thick and lump free. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the remaining liquid and incorporate until well combined and smooth.
  5. Spoon or pipe the batter into the prepared cases, filling them two-thirds full. IMG_20140823_144052[1]
  6. Break each cookie into quarters and place four pieces into each unbaked cupcake.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when lightly touched. Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and onto wire racks. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  8. For the frosting, gradually mix the icing sugar and butter/margarine together using the hand-held electric whisk until well combined. Gradually pour the milk into the frosting. When incorporated, turn the whisks to a high speed and mix well until light and fluffy. Add the double chocolate cookie crumbs and mix well until evenly distributed through the frosting.
  9. Spoon a generous amount of frosting onto each cupcake, smooth over the cake and decorate with more crushed cookie crumbs if desired.

This recipe makes 12-16 cupcakes. Again, I used two-thirds of the amount of each ingredient listed for the frosting and found this was plenty. 

Be careful when filling your muffin cases not to overfill them as the batter level will rise when you put the cookie chunks in the mix and you don’t want it spilling over the cases in the oven. 

Lemon Crunch Bars

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IMG_20140822_081548[1] 22/08/2014

These things are seriously tasty. With oaty, crunchy, buttery layers sandwiching together a smooth and creamy centre, it’s easy to see why. But less of the M&S advert sound-a-likes, don’t just see for yourself… bake and taste! The lemon filling is similar to cheesecake with a subtle lemon sharpness and the oat crunch biscuit layers are crisp and buttery with the tiniest saltiness to cut the richness and bring out those wonderful homely baking flavours. This is such a simple recipe and delivers lovely results.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted or margarine
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest (1 lemon)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, rolled oats, salt and baking soda. Stir in the granulated sugar and brown sugar and mix until no clumps of sugar remain.
  2. Stir the vanilla into the melted butter/margarine and pour the mixture over the dry ingredients. Using a spoon, stir the mixture until evenly moistened. Sprinkle half of the crumb mixture into the bottom of a greased and foil lined 8×8 baking dish and gently press into an even layer.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside (leaving the oven heated at 180C).
  4. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolks and lemon extract until well blended. Pour this mixture over the crumb crust in the baking dish and spread it into an even layer.
  5. Sprinkle the top evenly with the remaining crumb mixture.
  6. Bake in preheated oven 23 – 26 minutes until lightly golden.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature. Once cool, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes – 1 hour then remove and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.