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Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Just as I was thinking that there was nothing interesting in season, I remembered oranges.  Oranges, synonymous with walnuts in Christmas stockings, bringing colour and cheer to the winter months.

Today I’m bringing two very different recipes for oranges.  The first is a gorgeous and surprisingly low fat cake.  I urge you to try this if you haven’t already.  It works every time and it always tastes special.

Nigella’s Clementine Cake (with Maya Gold)


4-5 clementines, skin on, to weigh 375g (13oz)
melted butter for greasing
6 large eggs
225g (8oz) sugar
250g (9oz) ground almonds
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
100g Maya Gold Chocolate

Put the clementines in a pan, covered with cold water, then bring to the boil.  Simmer for 2-3 hours, then drain and set aside to cool.  Cut the clementines in quarters and discard the pips.  Pulp the rest (skins, pith, fruit) in a blender.

Beat eggs, add sugar, almonds and baking powder, mixing well.  Add clementine pulp then stir together.  Pour the mixture into the cake tin, then bake for approx 1 hour, covering with foil or greaseproof paper after 40 mins to prevent burning.

When done, take out of the oven and while still hot, dot squares of chocolate over the top.  These will melt, then use a spatula to spread the melted chocolate over the top of the cake.  Leave to cool.

As you can see from the photo above, the cake didn’t even get a chance to cool before we had a couple of slices!  This is a moist, adult kind of cake, which adds a bit of sophistication to an afternoon tea or coffee.  It is lovely to make for house guests as it is a bit different and feels like you have gone to some effort, without taking too long such that you spend all day in the kitchen.

Seville Orange Marmalade


Every year Fanny’s Farm Shop have a marmalade competition.  Every year I mean to give it a go, but this year, buoyed by the success of two years of home-made jam, I decided to take the plunge.

I bought a kit which included a recipe, all the jars, fruit and sugar.  However, as soon as I opened it up I realised I needed a muslin bag, so this took me a fortnight to sort out.  In the end I made do with a clean facecloth that had come with Liz Earle hot polish (which incidentally is really good).

The recipe said 5 honey jars, but I filled a lot more.  To be on the safe side, I would have 7 or 8 normal sized jam jars available and sterilised in the dishwasher (just run them on a normal cycle with their lids, and leave them in the closed dishwasher till the minute you use them.

1kg/2.2lbs Seville Oranges
1 large lemon
2.5 litres or 4 1/4 pints of water
2kg of sugar

1.  With clean fruit, halve each one and squeeze out the juice and pips into a muslin sack over a bowl.  I used a sieve to hold the muslin bag aloft.   Remove some of the pith from the citrus peels and reserve, then cut the fruit into half again.  Slice the peel into narrow strips.

2.  Add the reserve pith into the muslin sack with the pips and tie loosely together.  Allow plenty of room in the bag so that the water can bubble through the bag and extract the pectin from the pips and pith.

3. Place the shredded peel, juices and muslin bag into a large preserving pan with the water.

4.  Slowly bring the mixture to the boil, then simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until peel is very soft and the contents have reduced by half.  The photo below shows it half way to being done.

5.  Remove the muslin sack from the pan, set it aside to cool down.  Once cool, squeeze as much of the liquid back into the pan as possible.

6.  Add the sugar to the pan over a low heat and gradually dissolve sugar.  Bring to boil, then boil for 10-15 mins.  It will set at 105C, 220F.

7.  Leave to stand for 15 mins, then give it a quick stir to distribute the peel evenly.

8.  Pop your jars out of the dishwasher, fill, seal and cover.

The end result with this recipe was floating pieces of peel in clear gold coloured jelly.  I was very impressed with the colour and taste of the batch, and will be saving the spares for serious marmalade lovers only!

Fanny’s Farm Shop are having a marmalade competition in February, details of which can be found on their website.

 

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I have to confess that I prefer most of my food fairly plain and unadulterated.  Apple crumble is a case in point, because I normally like to keep it plain.

However, I’ve spent the last two weeks being ill with flu and a chest infection, so I decided I needed a few more vitamins to fight off the winter germs.  We have got a wealth of red fruit in the freezer, just waiting to be put into pies and crumbles, so I decided on a change.

I sprinkled a load of sugar on to taste.

The red fruit adds a nice pink colour to the mixture.

I included coarse oatmeal in the crumble to add a bit of bite:

The result was pleasantly tart, and a very vivid red colour!

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Home-made Christmas biscuits


I love this time of year.  The pre-Christmas excitement and planning is my favourite part of the proceedings, and I know exactly why.  It’s all the creative possibilities, the baking, the making, the shopping, the goodwill, the thinking, the planning.  It’s my favourite time of year, closely followed by the short-lived bit of summer where camping in the UK becomes a pleasant pastime.

Inspired by the amazing “Biscuiteers“, my friend Clare and I decided to make some home-made biscuits.  This activity was squashed in during the twins lunchtime nap and my school run, more of which later.

We based the biscuits on a wonderful recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook.  I have seriously never tasted such great biscuits, and would thoroughly recommend this one.  From what I can remember, we used:

400g plain flour
200g butter
280g unrefined caster sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

These ingredients were mixed together like a cake, as in:  butter and sugar creamed together, add the egg, fold in the dry ingredients, making a dough.  Usually you would put the mix in the fridge to set a bit, but we had no time, so just rolled it out straight away, cut out some Christmas shapes and stuck them in the oven till they went golden brown.

We then made some royal icing, which has lemon juice and egg white added to make it harden properly.

300g icing sugar
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice

You whizz the lemon juice and egg together, then add the icing sugar gradually, mixing well throughout.  Then add colours.

My collection of icing colour pastes and sparkles came into their own.  But the unfortunate thing is that we ran out of time, so rushed putting the icing on, and only had spoons to apply it, hence they are a bit rough and ready.  Next time we will have a small piping bag etc…..

Unusually for these sorts of things, the best bit of them is the taste.  They are the best I have ever tasted.

The second batch of biscuits were supposed to be for the school Christmas fair, but in the event I was too ill to go, so we had to eat them all ourselves…..

 

 

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I have a confession to make.  It is at least a month since I have even got to either allotment – I have just been too busy, too ill or too lazy.  I have spent the summer gallivanting around and have loved every minute of shirking my duties.   Jamie has been running there as part of his evening run to keep it ticking over, and he had reassured me that they looked okay (ish).

Today I got the shock of my life when I revisited them both.  All the crops that I had carefully sown have gone to seed or been overgrown, and generally looked very neglected.  This cabbage sums up the damage:

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The plot now needs some serious weeding and replanting for next year.

Despite the complete wasteland that the allotment seemed, I was still able to bring home some great picks of the day,which I have rinsed ready to put in the pot later:

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I am going to put the mix of sweetcorn, potatoes, carrots, peppers, chilli and borlotti beans into a huge cooking pot over a bonfire, along with some braising steak, onions, beef stock and some fresh tarragon picked today.

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This is all going into a dutch oven on the fire.  Watch this space, I will post the results tomorrow, if they were worth a look.

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I am going to eat my stew with oven roasted tomato and parmesan bread that I made earlier:

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This was made using the tomatoes from the plot a few weeks ago, which had been overnight-roasted according to the recipe on Make Grow Gather.  This created the perfect addition to home made bread:

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So, two hours later, here we are with food cooking on the fire:

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I haven’t tasted it yet, but I can’t wait:

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It looks a lot better and browner after a few hours of cooking.  Here was the final result.  It actually seemed like a real Ray Mears kind of meal, with lots of whole veg and a bit of spice.

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Granted, it still looks pretty grim with the flash on the camera, but it tasted amazing, with a Central American accent, with sweetcorn, Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, chillis, peppers and potatoes.

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What a weekend!   We managed to fit in both allotments, twice, and go to Petersham Nurseries for some inspiration.  The activities culminated in making a batch of blackcurrant cupcakes.

First I must show you the photos I took at Petersham Nurseries.  It is one of my favourite places for inspiration – whoever runs it has got such a good eye for colour, and puts things together beautifully.  I noticed they had a job going and boy am I tempted…..

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The displays really make you want to buy something, but the price tags are breathtaking.  It makes me wonder whether it would be fun if money really was no object.  I think it is more satisfying to get ideas, then try to recreate your own version in a thifty way.

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If you look at the objects, there is nothing inherently special about any of them, but the arrangement together just works somehow.  Having said that, they just seem to have a knack of picking objects that work together.

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There is also a fabulous restaurant there, run by Skye Gyngell and a tea room for those like us on a more limited budget.

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There is usually something interesting there in the way of plants too.  This time of year, they have gigantic dahlias.

Allotment June 15 039We bought one for Jamie for Father’s Day, and brought it back to the plot.  I have to say it looks a lot more modest than the one in the shop, but they do flower continuously from June to October, so there is plenty of time!

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Last year we made redcurrant cupcakes, and they were a great success, so we decided to use some of our bumper crop of blackcurrants to make some more.  The secret was not to add them to the mix, but to press them onto the top just before they go in the oven.

Blackcurrant cupcakes

375g Self raising flour
115g butter
200g caster sugar
2 very large eggs (or 3 medium)
1/4 vanilla pod
1 tsp vanilla extract
175ml milk
Some blackcurrants – a few handfuls

Beat together butter and sugar till fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Split vanilla pod, scrape out seeds and add to mixture.  Fold in the flour, then when mixed, add and mix in the milk.  Spoon the mixture into muffin cases, then add blackcurrants to the top as shown below.  Then pressed in the blackcurrants into the mixture, but so they were still on top.

Allotment June 15 172Put into a preheated oven at 180degrees C, and leave for 20 mins or until golden on top.

Allotment June 15 068I know it is a cliche, and one I use very often, but the tartness of the blackcurrants against the fluffy sweetness of the vanilla cakes turns a childlike treat into something more interesting for adults.

Finally, one more photo from 8pm this evening – the peas flowering.  I picked a handful of yellow podded peas, just in case I can’t get back to them for a couple of days.  It looks as though there will be a lot more where they came from!

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These days, although we would all love to eat fresh, fully prepared, home cooked meals every day, it is sometimes hard to do much more than re-heat a ready meal in the evenings after work.  Especially, ironically if you have been at the allotment till 7pm (!).

But Saturday is our foodie day.  We love to think about what we can incorporate from the plot on the menu that night, and we have the time and energy to try something new, rather than a tried and tested recipe.

This weekend we had little else to do, so we worked in four new dishes with our own home grown stuff.

First on the menu was Chicken in Marsala sauce.  This is cheating a bit, because the only ingredients from the allotment were bay leaves and thyme, but it is worth noting nonetheless.

Ingredients:

Chicken quarters or thighs, skin & bone on.
1/2 bottle of Marsala wine
A few sprigs of Thyme
2 Bay leaves
1/2 head of garlic
Splash 0f olive oil
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to season
Fresh parsley
(optional) mushrooms

The basic recipe follows the standard chicken one pot meal, like chicken and tarragon.  You fry off the seasoned chicken in olive oil till it goes brown, then add the other ingredients, leave it bubbling away for a while, keep an eye on it, then reduce down the stock that’s left.

Reducing the stock is particularly important in this case, as you end up with a really nice sweet, sticky sauce, which coats the chicken really nicely. The final step is to chop the parsley and add just before serving.  We followed this with:

Strawberry and Vanilla Custard Tarts.

Strawberry tarts

Strawberry tarts

These were made with Colin and Gail’s eggs which we think explains why they have an amazingly yellow colour.

Ingredients:

Ready made sweet pastry
Vanilla pod
300ml Double Cream
5 egg yolks
75g granulated sugar (or vanilla sugar)

Line small tart tins with sweet pastry.  Bake blind for 10 minutes then allow to cool.

Make the vanilla custard, by heating up cream in a saucepan with the vanilla pod.  Beat together the egg yolks and the sugar in a separate bowl.  Carefully drip in slowly some of the warmed milk, and beat until smooth.  Continue doing this with about 1/3 of the milk then return the mixture to the saucepan with the rest of the milk.  Heat carefully.  When the custard begins to cool it will set, and then you can add the strawberries and custard to the tart cases.

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Thank goodness. I finally had a cooking frenzy and stuffed the squash with a mix of red onion, garlic, mushroom and parmesan.

Ready to go in the oven

Ready to go in the oven

They looked fabulous but I have to say that I agree with Doug’s analysis. They weren’t unpleasant, but didn’t really taste of anything. Next time it will have to be a stronger tasting filling. If I could just find a more interesting flavoured variety then it would be a fantastic vegetarian meal.

Still not enough cheese

Still not enough cheese

Oh yes, and Barrack Obama won the US election. What an exciting moment of history.

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