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Archive for the ‘Basic recipe’ Category

I did intend to post this on 16th, but have ended up back posting.  It has been a busy week…

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, or so the saying goes…  This presumably means you should make the very best of life’s ‘sour’ situations: but definitely no metaphorical lemons here today! This should really have been a day for writing about ‘bubbly’ (rather than lemonade) as the vicar and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage, but the fizzy stuff is being saved for the celebrations with friends and family in a week or so.  As for lemons, our market has been full of them recently and I absolutely love home made lemonade, with just enough sugar to take away the excessive sourness … and topped up with sparkling rather than still water we can still have fizz – life is sweet!

Lemonade is easy to make and definitely a good recipe for the novice cook: it was one of the first I was taught at Domestic Science in school (DS – definitely before the days of Food Technology).  With the advent of the microwave oven the method has become simpler and I have given both methods below.  Herb, spice or other fruit flavours can be incorporated into the the basic lemon (or orange, or lime, or mixed citrus fruit) syrup.  For a long hot summer, whatever that might be (!), or as a time saver, prepare a larger quantity and keep a ready supply of undiluted blocks of sugared zesty lemon in freeze.  Dissolve, as required, in the correct quantity of water.  Simply strain once defrosted before serving.   It will cool the water as it melts – simple!

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Traditional Style Lemonade

4-6 tbsp granulated sugar (according to personal preference)
(fructose or another sweetener can be substituted)
2 large/3 small lemons – zested & freshly squeezed
1 litre/1¾pints water – still or sparkling.

1.  Using a little detergent wash the lemons to remove waxy coating and rinse well

2.  Put the lemons in a microwave for about 20 seconds on full power.  This burst of heat releases a little extra juice.  I understand a similar effect can be had by apply light pressure with the hand and rolling the lemon backwards and forwards on the work surface, although I have not tried it.

3. Zest the lemons into a microwaveproof bowl, avoiding the white pith which will make the drink bitter. (Use a saucepan for the stovetop method).  Add the squeezed lemon juice and the sugar.

4.  Heat in the microwave, stirring from time to time … alternatively, heat on the stove top, stirring.  Remove from the microwave or heat once the sugar has dissolved. Taste and add more sugar if needed.  This takes around two minutes.

5.  Leave to cool and to allow the zest to fully infuse.

6.  Strain and dilute with still or sparkling water.  Serve over ice decorated with slices of fresh lemon.

7.   If this recipe is doubled – or more –  the portions should be frozen preferably unstrained and definitely undiluted.

Alternatives: (suggested quantities to substitute)
Traditional Style Orangeade – 2 small oranges
Traditional Style Limeade – 3-4 limes
Traditional Style Lemon & Limeade – 1 lemon & 2 limes
Traditional Style Mixed Citrus-ade – 1 orange, 1 lemon, 1 lime
Traditional Style Grapefruit-ade - 1-2 grapefruit (preferably sweet pink variety) – may need extra sugar and water if using two grapefruit

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A few weeks ago I made sweet scones as part of a special afternoon tea for Mum and Dad on Mothering Sunday and they were a great success.  So last weekend on Father’s Day, with Mum and Dad coming to tea again, I decided to make scones again, but this time Savoury ones: with cheese both in the mix and crusted on the top.  It is a lovely flavourful recipe with the strong cheese flavour enhanced by mustard and cayenne pepper giving a spicy bite, the strength of which of course can be adjusted to taste.  They would also be delicious with a little fried onion added to the mix or on top – or both.  These scones are perfect at tea time or in lunch boxes, at Summer picnics or served with a warming Winter soup in place of bread.

As with the sweet scones the source for this recipe was Delia Smith’s recipe Cheese Crusted Scones from the original version of her Book of Cakes. It is a straightforward fairly standard cheese scone recipe and I made it exactly as per the instructions, apart from slightly lessening the spices.  In particular I used less cayenne as the one I have from our local ethnic shop is rather fiery.  I didn’t want to spoil the scones by making them too hot!  The recipe below is a doubled version: somehow the eight smallish scones I made didn’t seem enough.  As with the sweet scones I have added a list of other savoury scones further down this page: recipes from books I own and from cookery sites online that I may well make at some point.  If I do make any and post them on this site I will add a link.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Cheese Crusted Scones
(Makes 12-16 scones)

12ozs/350g self raising flour
2ozs/60g butter
60zs/170g finely grated strong Cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
4-6tbsp milk (and a little more if needed)
½tsp salt
1tsp English mustard powder (or less if you wish)
2-4 large pinches cayenne pepper
A little extra milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7 and thoroughly grease a large baking sheet (or two smaller ones).

2.  Sift the flour into a bowl along with the mustard powder, salt and half of the cayenne pepper and mix together.

3.  Rub in the butter with finger tips until well combined.  Mix in most of the grated cheese leaving the remainder (around a generous 2 tbsp) to use later as a topping.

4.  Beat the eggs with 4tbsp milk and add to the dry ingredients.  Mix together to form a soft dough that leaves the bowl clean, adding a little more milk as required if the mixture seems dry.  Try to avoid working the mixture too much as this will make the scones hard.

5.  On a well floured surface, to avoid sticking, gently roll the dough as evenly as possible to a thickness of ¾inch/2cm.  I like to cut savoury scones into square shapes (using rounds for sweet scones) and this can be done with a knife.  If the dough is formed into an oblong shape it can be cut into the required number of equally sized pieces which will avoid it having to be reworked.  Depending on size required, bearing in mind they will rise in the oven, aim for 12-16 pieces.

6.  Brush the tops with a little more milk, sprinkle equally with the reserved cheese and, if you wish, very lightly dush with some more cayenne pepper.

7.  Place evenly spaced on the baking sheets, allowing a little room for rising.  Bake for 12-15 minutes (or a little longer if necessary) until the cheese has started to crust and the scones are browned.  Cool on a wire rack.

8.  Serve warm or cold with or without butter but the scones are best eaten the day they are cooked.  Next day reheating a little is recommended.  Fillings such as ham, tuna, chutney or tomato are also suggested, as is topping with a fried, poached or scrambled egg.

Alternative recipes for savoury scones (untried):
Cheese & Fried onion Scones (see my note above)
Cheese & Sweetcorn Scones – The Omniverous Bear/Good Food
Potato Scones – Delia Smith – Book of Cakes (original version)
Tattie (Potato) Scones – London Eats
Cheese & Marmite Scones – For Forks Sake
Buttermilk Scones with Cheshire Cheese & Chives – Delia Smith online
Feta, Olive & Sun Dried Tomato Scones – Delia Smith online
Savoury Herb Scones – Cook it Simply
Peppadew & Chive Scones – The Complete Cookbook
Cheese & Chive Scones – Lavender & Lovage
Cheese Scones with a Chilli kick –  Searching for Spice
Ham & Cheese Muffins (not quite scones but almost) – Slightly Domesticated Dad

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Salt has been used as a method of preserving fish for centuries, prolonging its life and thus ensuring a ready supply.  It is widely used in warmer countries where it would otherwise deteriorate very quickly.  Nowadays fish is more commonly preserved by freezing, but the traditional dry salt method is still popular for the distinctive flavour it gives.  Salted fish is not commonly used in traditional British cooking but is widely used across the world, especially in the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and the Caribbean so it is readily available in ethnic food shops, plus it can now often be found in the ethnic aisles of large supermarkets.  I regularly buy blocks of salted skinned boneless pollack for using in recipes such as Hyacinth’s Salt Fish Cakes from the Caribbean or Spanish/Basque Style Salt Cod (Bacalao) in Spicy Tomato Sauce.  Providing it is thoroughly soaked (overnight) and rinsed in two or three changes of water I find this purchased ready salted fish easy to use.  Providing the expiry date on the pack is observed, it does not need refrigeration.  (It can eventually be frozen too if it looks as if it might go out of date before use.)

When my mother in law gave me her copy of Taste of the Sea by Rick Stein I was surprised to see just how easily fish, particularly white fish, can be salted at home.  I experimented with reasonable success with some thawed frozen skinless pollack fillets, just enough for one meal. The instructions are not clear on how salted fish should be kept for long term use, (the recipe suggested it could be stored for up to week but I was nervous about keeping it for that long) so I used the fish just two days into the salting process.  (I also assumed that it needed to be refrigerated until use, even though I store purchased fish in the cupboard.)  It was lightly cured and soft to the touch with a mildly salted flavour but did not have a dried texture (this might have happened with longer salting). This method of salting is simple, but I feel it is worth noting here that it should probably be called lightly salted fish. After some research I discovered a helpful article at Downhomelife  which started with a warning:

Proper salting is a lengthy, fairly complicated process and special equipment or controlled conditions are needed to dry the fish thoroughly and safely.

Which is worth bearing in mind, though these words have now been removed from the article.  However the warning is about drying the fish to avoid poor results.  On the plus side the site also mentions the simple shortened method I had tried:

…the fish is cured in salt in what’s called a “pound” – a square bin where you let the fish soak in salt for about 21 days. If you want a less salty version called “shore fish,” you lightly sprinkle the fish with salt and let it cure for only a couple days.

I would certainly not re-freeze fish salted by this method as I am not sure enough that this can be done safely.   If salting fresh fish, rather than frozen, it could be frozen once salted.  Below is my version of salted fish.  My picture was taken 24hrs after salting.  In the end I consider this a simple way of lightly salting fish, providing the process takes place two days ahead of the date the fish is required.   It is a method I would be happy to use again, especially as I prefer the milder flavour, but I will probably also continue to buy the blocks of salted fish as they are so convenient.  Other useful links are this overview of  Salt fish giving a helpful list of types and names around the world, this article at ehow with a similar method to that given by Rick Stein and this enlightening Ezine Article.  I would be interested to hear from any readers who have successfully tried salting fish at home by the Rick Stein method, or similar.

If you have not smelled salt fish then you would be advised to do so before you make your own to give a guideline.  Salt fish has a different, much stronger, aroma from fresh fish but if really unpleasant then discard the fish and do not take the risk. Often purchased salt fish smells particularly strong but we have never suffered ill effects.   

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Salted Fish

Fillets of White Fish (Cod, Haddock, Pollack, Coley or similar)
Salt (Type not specified in the original – I used Rock Salt)
A large plastic container big enough to hold the fish without overlapping

1.  If using frozen fish then it should be thoroughly defrosted before salting and should not be re-frozen.

2.  Pat the fish fillets dry with kitchen paper and put them in the plastic container in a single layer without overlapping.

3.  Completely cover the fish with a thick layer of salt.

4.  Put a cover on the container and refrigerate for 24hours.

5.  After 24hours most of the salt will have turned to brine with the water drawn out of the fish.

6.  This fish will now be sufficiently preserved to keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.  The recipe does not say what to do with the brine but I poured away the excess liquid, leaving the patches of undissolved salt to continue the process.

—–

To prepare salt fish for cooking it should be soaked in plenty of cold water.  If it is lightly salted this will take just an hour or two but fish that is more dried out should be soaked for up to 24hours. I usually give it a second quick rinse in cold water before use.

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A Cream Tea is a special treat, much anticipated and usually taken at a leisurely pace when on holiday in the UK.  Some cream teas have stayed long in my memory: a seaview cafe at Lyme Regis in Dorset, the Lee Abbey Tea Cottage in Somerset…   I particularly recall a sunny afternoon birthday Cream Tea we booked for my father taken on board the Pride of Lee, whilst leisurely drifting along the River Lea on the borders of Essex and Hertfordshire. What exactly is a Cream Tea?  Usually it comprises sweet scones with thick cream and strawberry (or another flavour) jam (sometimes butter too – choose all or some) plus tea to drink, apparently the idea could date back as far as the 11th Century.  I knew this was exactly what I wanted to include as part of the Mothering Sunday Afternoon Tea I prepared this year.  The cakes were made in advance, leaving enough time to finish the ‘baguette bite’ sandwiches and make the scones on the Sunday afternoon.

On this occasion I chose to make plain scones, which are actually very slightly sweet, using Delia Smith’s recipe for Devonshire Scones from the original version of her Book of Cakes.  It was a simple fairly standard recipe, as far as I could see, but without the added instructions to egg-wash the top of the scones for a golden brown shiny finish.  I am sure this could be done if wished, but it was an extra job on a busy afternoon I was glad not to have to do (especially as my guests were about to knock on the door).  Scones just have to be made fresh on the day they are eaten: they are not the same the following day. However, a tip from my grandmother, slightly sour milk can be used for scones. This does work, but I usually don’t have time to make them when the milk is off! Speed and a light touch are essential: a heavy handed approach leads to solid scones. Some cooks even recommend that the dough is cut with a knife rather than using cutters.  On this page there is first this basic recipe for a plain scone with just a little sugar for sweetness, but eventually other sweet variations will appear here, including scones with fruit (raisins/sultanas or cherries), treacle scones, for example.  There will eventually be a separate post – Basic Recipe: Savoury Scones for those containing cheese and other savoury ingredients.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Devonshire Scones
(Makes 10-12 scones)

8ozs/225g self-raising flour, sieved
1½ozs/40g butter, at room temperature
¼pint/150ml milk (slightly soured is fine)
1½level tsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
To serve:
40zs/100ml clotted cream
or
¼pint/150ml whipped double
Jam – usually strawberry, raspberry or blackcurrant

1.  Preheat oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7.  Grease a baking tin.

2.  Sieve the flour into a bowl and quickly rub in the butter using fingertips.  Stir in the sugar and the pinch of salt.

3.  Using a knife mix in the milk a little at a time.  When combined gently bring the mixture together with floured hands into a soft dough.  If it is a little dry then add a drop more milk.

4.  Gently shape on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured hands until about ¾-1inch/2cm-2.5cm thick.  There are mixed views over whether using a rolling pin is a good idea: Delia Smith uses a lightly floured one but I was always taught to use my hands.

5.  Cut rounds with a 1½-2inch/4-5cm fluted pastry cutter (but without twisting to avoid misshapen scones).  Once as many as possible have been cut then gently bring the dough together and cut again.  Try to roll out as little as possible to avoid toughening the scones.  Alternatively, the squares can be cut with a sharp knife.

6.  Place the scones on the greased baking tin and dust each with a little flour.  Bake near the top of the oven for 12-15 minutes.  When done the will be risen and golden brown.

7.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and eat soon – slightly warm is lovely.  Serve spread with butter and/or cream and/or jam – all three if you wish.

Alternative recipes for sweet scones (untried):
Treacle Scones – Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes
Wheatmeal Date Scones – Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes
Scones with dried fruit: sultanas/raisins/cranberries/dates/apricots/figs …
Quick & Easy Fluffy Scones (like the idea of yoghurt in the mix) Normal in London (E17)
Fruited Scones – sozzled (fruit soaked in liqueur) – Good Food Channel
Fresh Strawberry (or other fruit) scones via Arugulove
Lavender Scones – All recipes
Rose Petal Scones (with Rosewater)  – Good Food Channel
Ginger Beer Scones via Dan Lepard: Guardian
Lemonade Scones – Fig Jam & Lime Cordial
Lemonade Scones – Good Food Channel
Oat and Maple Syrup Scones – Smitten Kitchen via Cake, Crumbs and Ccoking
Vanilla Almond scones via Dan Lepard: Guardian
Chocolate Scones via Chocolate Log Blog
Apple Scones via Lavender & Lovage
Cherry Scones – CWS Family Fare
Ginger Scones – CWS Family Fare
Honey Scones – CWS Family Fare

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Sometimes I think it is useful to add simple techniques to this site, especially if they are as versatile as this one for portions of pre-cooked chicken conveniently available for use in recipes or to eat cold.  Some weeks ago I needed to make a batch of Mexican Style Chicken & Pepper Salad large enough to feed 50 people.  It seemed obvious to poach the chicken first, along with onion and herbs for flavour, letting it cool before refrigerating until needed for the recipe.  All I needed was some instructions: I did not feel I wanted to trust guesswork with such a large and expensive quantity.

After some research I found a very clear method for poaching chicken at About.com along with another linked page giving additional information.  The method is for cooking boneless, skinless, chicken breast pieces, a healthy option that does not require oil or fat and relatively low in salt as the amount used is controlled by the cook.  There is no salt in the ingredients list for the recipe below which is simply flavoured by the onion and herbs.  The resulting chicken is full of flavour, soft and juicy.  The meat can then be used in any chicken recipe.  It can be used hot in chicken pies, soups, stews and curries, though if adapting a recipe for uncooked chicken the pre-cooked meat should be added towards the end of the cooking time, providing enough time is given for it to be thoroughly reheated.  It is just as good cold in sandwiches and salads (though unless necessary I would not choose to use meat from frozen batches as the taste is affected, albeit slightly).  Poached chicken can be substituted in any recipe using cold meat leftovers from a Sunday roast or a shop bought pre-cooked chicken.  Poaching liquids can be varied: usually just plain water, the advantage being there are no strong flavours to clash with those in the recipe in which it is used.  The water can also be flavoured, for example with herbs (as with my version below which uses onion and Herbes de Provence), pieces of root ginger or other spices.  Alternatively substitute chicken or vegetable broth, white wine, cider, tomato or other fruit juice, coconut milk or other liquid.   My sister in law uses a similar method pre-cooking belly pork pieces with root ginger to tenderise them, before using them in, Chinese Style Belly Pork & Greens/Broccoli/Bok Choy, a Chinese style stir fried pork dish and I am sure this method could be applied to other meats.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Basic Recipe: Poached Chicken Breasts
Serves 3-4 people

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
1 medium sized onion, peeled & roughly chopped
2 tsp herbes de Provence or dried mixed herbs
1 bay leaf (optional)
around 1½-2 cups/12-16 fl ozs or ¾pint/450ml water
(enough to cover the meat by at least half inch)

NB: It is important to:

  • use a pan in which the pieces can snugly sit in a single layer;
  • completely cover the meat with the poaching liquid;
  • follow the cooking temperatures and timings;
  • carefully observe the instructions for use and storage once the meat is cooked.

1.  Place chicken breasts in the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot just about large enough for them to fit in one layer.  (Say how much in one layer and size of pot – see info on Mex chick recipe).

2.  Cover the chicken with water or poaching liquid.  The meat should be covered by at least a half inch and up to one inch.  Add the onion and herbs – and bay leaf if using.  (Alternatively root ginger or other spices.)

3.  Bring the liquid to the boil and then lower the heat until it is barely simmering – just an occasional bubble rising to the surface.

4.  Partly cover the pot and simmer very gently for 10 minutes.

5.  Turn off the heat and leave the chicken to finish cooking for 10-15 minutes longer.

6.  Remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and set aside.  Remove and discard the bay leaf if used.   Reserve the cooking liquid for use as stock – either strained or unstrained as the base of a soup.

7.  The meat can either be eaten warm or allowed to cool for a short while before refrigerating for later use.  The pieces can be left whole, sliced, shredded or cut into chunks depending on what you want to use it for.   It is economical to cook a good quantity in one go, which can then be frozen in portions providing it is thoroughly defrosted before use. 

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This is a very special recipe, one I turn to again and again for a rich fruit cake: for Christmas, Easter or even the occasional ‘special’ birthday.  (It would also make a good wedding cake, but that is outside my experience.)  Its full title in my recipe file is Special Occasion Cake (from Mrs Maud Farrant) written in my mother’s hand.  As with all good recipes it is a ‘hand-me-down’.  I am the third generation, at least, to use it.  It came from my father’s mother, my ‘nanna’ as we called her and through her daughter, my aunt, to my mother.  Each time I make this recipe I do so with a sense of pride and connection with the past, especially as my nanna and aunt are no longer with us.  It is especially lovely to have it each Christmas and also to turn it into an Simnel Cake at Easter.  I really hope that the tradition will continue with my own daughter: that in years to come I will be able to eat a slice of a cake from the same recipe in her home!

Here is this year’s Christmas cake, made a little later than I had hoped but looking just as tasty as usual. Each year it is decorated slightly differently. This year it will be a version of the traditional topping of marzipan and icing (the photo will appear on this page in due course). Last year I finished the cake with an unusual sweet and crunchy Florentine topping, from an idea in Tesco’s 2009 free instore magazine which I will definitely be repeating (recipe and picture further down). I have also often made it into a Dundee cake, covered with concentric rings of nuts and glacé cherries before it was baked. Our last Dundee Cake was before I started this blog so there are no photos, but it is about time we ate one again. Perhaps Christmas 2011 unless I develop another plan. (As mentioned before I also use this recipe for my Simnel Cake at Easter and more recently for our Silver Wedding Celebration Cake – pictures and details below or by following the link.)

Meanderings through my Cookbook http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Although this cake doesn’t take long to mix, it is really important to have the timings in mind. For best results it needs to be started in advance, preferably the day before as the fruit needs to be soaked in alcohol and plump up. Actually, I have forgotten this several times and it is still delicious – just leave for as long as possible and go ahead. Remember too that the cooking time is around 2¼hours, give or take a bit, so if you put it in the oven late in the evening (again I admit to doing this) plan to stay up past midnight waiting for it to cook – you have been warned! Some people like to ‘feed’ a cake by piercing the bottom of the cooked cake with a skewer and pouring over a small amount of additional alcohol. There was no instruction to do this in the original recipe and I know my mother does not, however, as recommended by others, I feed my Christmas Cake just a little and like to think it is an improvement. I never feed a Simnel Cake and we enjoy it just as much. It all comes down to personal preference. (The measurements given are Imperial and I am loth to convert the original as I am afraid that adjusting the measurements may make the cake less successful.)

Meanderings through my Cookbook http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Basic Recipe: Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake
*Mixed dried fruit can be either a combination of sultanas, raisins and currants or the ready mixed variety with mixed peel included, in which case add an extra 2ozs mixed fruit instead of adding the peel or add another 2ozs glacé cherries.

Start this recipe in advance and soak the mixed fruit in the brandy at least overnight.
2tbsp brandy (rum can be used as an alternative)
1½lb (or 1lb for a less rich and heavy cake) mixed dried fruit (*see note above)
2ozs peel (unless using mixed fruit with peel – *see note above)

8ozs butter, at room temperature
8ozs soft brown sugar
3 large or 4 small eggs
10ozs self raising flour
large pinch salt
1 level tsp mixed spice
1 level tsp cinnamon
2ozs glacé cherries (*see note above)
1oz blanched chopped almonds or flaked almonds
a little milk to mix, if required

1.  Place the mixed fruit in a bowl, pour over the brandy and cover.  Leave to soak overnight.

2.  Line a 8-9inch loose bottomed tin with non stick baking parchment.  I do this by cutting a ring for the base and a long strip that is 2 inches more that the width and height of the sides.  Fold up the spare 2 inches of liner along the long side and cut into it at about 1inch intervals up to the fold along the entire length.  Use this to line the inside of the tin, folding in the cut pieces to part line the bottom.  Place the circle of liner on top.  It should not need greasing, but you may just like to add a few dabs of oil to help it adhere to the tin.

3.  Preheat the oven to 150oC/140oC Fan/300oF/Gas 2.

4. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and very creamy.

5.  Break an egg into a jug and gently mix with a fork.  Add a little at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well between each addition.  Continue in the same way until all the eggs are added.  Beat the mixture very well.

6.  Add the soaked fruit, cherries and almonds and mix in well.

7.  Sift the flour, ground spices and salt into the cake mixture and gently fold in, until the flour has disappeared.  Gently stir a little milk to the mixture if it seems a little stiff.

8.  Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, pressing down well into the bottom and smooth out so the top is flattened.

9.  Make a collar out of three or four sheets of newspaper about twice the height of the tin and tie in place around the cake with string.  This prevents burning.  (I find the Waltham Forest Guardian makes an excellent ring, but doesn’t add anything particular to the taste – so feel free to use any newspaper!)

10.  Place in the centre of the preheated oven.  Check after 2hours by gently pressing the top to see if it is still spongy and/or inserting a skewer to see if it comes out cleanly.  I usually find that it needs a further 15 minutes in my oven but the original instructions specify 2½ hours (and in one place it says 2½ to 3hours – a non fan oven instruction).

11.  When cooked remove from the oven, take off the newspaper collar, ease out of the tin and remove the lining paper.  Place onto a wire rack to cool.

12.  When cold the cake can be stored in a tin until it is ready to be finished.  Place it on the lid of the tin and cover with the upside down tin base.  (Label the bottom ‘this way up’ so no one forgets!)  If you want to ‘feed’ the cake pierce the base, not the top, with a skewer and gently drizzle about a tablespoon of extra brandy into the holes.  This can be repeated at regular occasions.  If I make my cake in November I usually do it four or five times between baking and the time it is decorated.

The cake is now ready to be decorated.  See below for some of the cakes we have eaten … plus decorating information.

Finishing touches …

Meanderings through my Cookbook http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Starry Night Cake – Christmas 2010
Traditional marzipan and white icing (fondant).  Design by hopeeternal
(more information about the cake and design)

Meanderings through my Cookbook http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Florentine Topping for Christmas Cake (December 2009)
(Amount generously covers a 23cm/9inch cake)

Florentine Topping is an alternative to the usual Christmas marzipan and white icing. Mixed red & green cherries, if available, would be a pretty alternative.  If you can get whole candied fruit to chop this is preferable to bought ready chopped peel in a tub. This recipe comes from the Tesco In Store Free Magazine, November-December 2009.

25g/1oz butter
2tbsp golden syrup
50g/2ozs flaked almonds
50g/2ozs roughly chopped walnuts
200g/7ozs halved red cherries
50g/2ozs chopped mixed peel
1tbsp plain flour

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180oC/160oC Fan oven/Gas 4

2. Melt the butter and golden syrup together in a pan.

3. Stir in the almonds and walnuts.

4. Stir in the cherries and mixed peel.

5. Stir in the flour and mix thoroughly.

6. Place the cake on a baking tray and spoon over the Florentine Topping aiming for as even a layer as possible.

7. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Gently lift onto a rack to cool and decorate with ribbon to serve.

8. Can be stored in a cake tin for up to two weeks.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Dundee Style Christmas Cake – December 2011
Walnut halves, pecan nut halves, blanched almonds, red and green glace cherries. Design by hopeeternal
More information about this cake

Dundee Cake (simplified topping using blanched almonds & cherries)
For a generous topping use 50-60 whole blanched almonds and 12-15 halved cherries.  Start with a ring of evenly spaced nuts around the edge of the uncooked cake mixture.  Within this place a ring of halved cherries.  Then a second ring of nuts and finally a small ring of cherries and a central cherry or nut if space permits.  Try to place the nuts and cherries without smearing the cake mixture on them for a clean looking finish.  The finish can be varied by adding other nuts, differently coloured cherries or changing the design from the usual formal concentric rings.

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Traditional Simnel Cake for Easter
A Simnel cake can be made with brandy or rum, as in the basic recipe above, or alternatively pre-soak the fruit in the juice of half a fresh orange.  Simnel Cakes were originally made for their mothers by working children as a gift for Mothering Sunday, the third Sunday in Lent, which falls three weeks before Easter.  Nowadays Simnel Cakes are mostly eaten at Easter.  See Afternoon Tea for Mothering Sunday for more information.

A Simnel Cake traditionally has 11 marzipan balls around the edge – one for each Disciple or Apostle of Jesus, except for Judas Iscariot!  Counting is not my strong point (!)  I miscounted and managed to add 12 balls instead of the usual 11.  A pity because I was very pleased with the cake.  Here it is …

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

First make the 11 small marzipan balls of around 2cm in diameter, before dividing the remaining marzipan in half.  Cut the cake horizontally through the centre into two equal pieces.  Roll one piece of marzipan into a circle.  Lightly spread the cut surface of the cake with apricot jam and place a rolled out circle of marzipan on top, putting any trimmings to one side.  Spread over a little more jam and cover with the second half of the cake. Roll a second circle from the remaining marzipan and place on the top of the cake. Trim to size and reserve the trimmings. The top can be marked in a lattice pattern, if required, using a light touch of a knife and the 11 marzipan balls are then placed equidistantly around the edge – a very little jam can be used to keep them in place.  Flash grill the top of the cake until the marzipan starts to bubble and slightly brown – take care as it burns quickly.  Any other decorations, such as sugar or foil covered chocolate eggs, fresh or sugar flowers or other items should be added when the surface is cold.

This version is decorated with a nest using the marzipan trimmings pushed through a clean garlic press to create strands.  When cool place a small pile of sugar covered chocolate eggs in the central nest.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

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Silver Wedding Anniversary Celebration Cake

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

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The simplest recipes are often the best – I think I may have written this line before …  This dessert is a quickly made citrus flavoured cream, to which fruit pulp can be added, which is then served with or without additional fruit.  It would certainly be worth substituting lemon or orange (possibly tangerine too) for the lime and then partner the mousse with other fruits.  I intend to experiment with this idea and add variations on this page as they arise.  I have already combined lemon and strawberry in another recipe and know that to be a delicious combination.

This first recipe is a variation on the original, Mango Lime Mousse by chef Nick Nairn found on the BBC Food website.  The earthiness of the mango certainly complements the lime beautifully.  Although called Mango Lime Mousse, it was actually a lime mousse served with mango.  When I made it my mango was very soft and I ended up with pulp rather than recognisable pieces.  I decided to combine the fruit with the lime mousse and then to cut up another mango, which was firmer, to serve alongside.  The original recipe called for half a mango: I ended up using two, so the whole mango and lime balance of this recipe has been altered from the original.  This recipe uses half a tub of cream and generously served three people.  For four people it would be necessary to use the whole tub of cream and the proportions of the other ingredients either increased or kept the same, depending on personal preference.  For six people I would add another mango, half as purée and half as cubes or slices. I see no reason why a fruit and cream mixture could not be churned in an ice cream machine (or for those without a machine, semi frozen and then well stirred once or twice to break up the crystals before the final freeze).

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Mango & Lime Mousse
(Serves 3)

For the citrus mousse:
150ml/5¼fl oz double cream
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 lime, zest and juice only 

For a mango & citrus mousse add:
1 mango, pulped or puréed 

To finish the dish:
1 mango, peeled and either cubed or sliced
honey, to drizzle
sprig of mint, to garnish 

1.  Whisk the cream and sugar together in a bowl until thickened. 

2.  Zest and squeeze the lime.  Fold into the cream mixture until well combined. 

3.  Pulp or purée the softest mango (this is a good way to use an over ripe fruit) and whisk into the lime cream.  Place cream mixture in the refrigerator until it is to be served. 

4.  Arrange some cubes or slices of mango in each serving plate or dish. 

5.  Spoon the lime mixture on top, drizzle with honey and decorate with a sprig of mint.

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Shortly after I was married I bought a wok: Ken Hom had been on television and stir frying seemed so easy. My mother in law regularly fed us stir fried dishes when we visited and I figured that if she could do it then so could I!  Since that time I have acquired several books of chinese recipes and treated myself to a pretty blue and white fishy chinese dinner set (pictured) of bowls, plates, spoons and chopstick rests, to which I have added some matching larger bowls that I was fortunate to find in the same design.  I have cooked some multi-dish Chinese style meals for guests, but mostly I cook stir fries as family dinners.  Once the preparation of ingredients has been done, this meal can be cooked and served very quickly.

One of our favourites is chicken and cashew nuts, traditionally one of the most popular choices at the Chinese takeaway.  I also stir fry with prawns and also with lean pieces of belly pork (or pork fillet) flavoured with lots of garlic and ginger, sometimes including chinese plum sauce.  This recipe has no original source, or at least none that I can really acknowledge.  It is just what I find works for us.  The ingredient information is scant as I tend to use what is available, but always start with onion, garlic and ginger, add light soy and five spice and finish with sesame oil.  I follow the advice I heard somewhere not to cook with sesame oil as it burns easily.  I stir fry with sunflower (not olive) oil and stir in the sesame oil at the end for added flavour.  I have been known to add toasted sesame seeds at the table as well.  I still have the same, now well used, wok that I bought when I was first married: it is a Ken Hom one with a slightly flattened base as I cook on an electric ceramic hob.

A word about soy sauce:  much has been written about avoiding the additive MSG (Monosodium glutamate) because of possible health implications.  It used to be difficult to find soy sauce without this ingredient, but it is now becoming increasingly easy to find dark and light soy sauce and its Japanese cousin, Shoyu, that are MSG free.  They are worth hunting down.

100_2903 Chicken & Cashew Nut Stir Fry

Chinese Style Stir Fries

Chicken & Cashew Nut Stir Fry
(Serves 4)

2tbsp sunflower oil
2-3ozs cashew nuts
1 large white onion, medium sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1inch (2.5cm) piece of ginger, finely chopped
8ozs/225g lean chicken breast, cut into thin slices
1tbsp light soy sauce
40zs/125g button mushrooms, quartered
1tsp chinese 5-spice seasoning
1tbsp sesame oil
1tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)
A selection of vegetables in a variety of colours – choose 2 or 3 from:
     Sliced red/yellow/orange/green pepper
Pak choi/Bok choi, chopped or Broccoli, in small florets
Carrot, cut into fine rings or julienne strips – good with chicken & cashew nut
Courgette, cut into fine rings or ribbons
French beans, 1inch/2.5cm pieces or handful frozen peas, cooked & drained
Chinese vegetables: beansprouts, beanshoots, water chestnuts

The term ‘stir fry’, when used below, means to continuously turn the ingredients in the hot oil in the wok. (I have a special flattened wok spatula.)  This helps them to cook evenly, stopping them from adhering to the pan and burning.

1.  Collect together and prepare all the ingredients.  It is important that they are available for immediate use.  Ingredients should be unmixed so they can be added separately.

2.  If using Broccoli it should be blanched: divide into small florets and pour boiling water over, leave for one minute and then immerse in cold water to stop cooking.  Set aside until needed.

3.  Place the wok on the stove top, using maximum heat, to allow it to pre-heat.  After 2 minutes or so, add the sunflower oil and allow this to heat through.  (IMPORTANT: Do not leave the pan unattended.)

4.  Omit this stage if not using cashews: Drop a cashew nut in the oil.  If it sizzles immediately add the remaining nut pieces, if not then wait a short while before trying another piece of nut.  The cashew nuts will brown very quickly, almost immediately.  Be careful to remove them before they blacken and spoil.  Spoon onto a piece of kitchen paper to soak up excess leaving the remaining oil in the wok.

5.  Add a small piece of onion to the oil and if it sizzles then it is hot enough to add the remainder of the onion.  Add the onion, garlic and ginger into the hot sunflower oil and stir fry as it cooks through.  It should be transparent and not brown.  Add the mushroom pieces, and stir fry for a minute or two.  Add the pieces of chicken and stir fry for 2-3 minutes to allow it to start to cook evenly.

6.  Add chosen remaining vegetables, apart from greens/broccoli.  Stir fry as they are included.  When cooked they should still be slightly crisp rather than soft, so it is important to add those that cook more slowly earlier than those that will cook quickly. (I always add carrot first if I am using it.  Save pak choi/bok choi or pre-blanched broccoli to put in towards the end after adding the soy sauce.

7.  Add the chinese 5-spice powder and light soy sauce and stir through.

8.  Add pak choi/bok choi or broccoli, stir in well, turn down the heat a little and if possible cover the wok.  Allow to cook until the vegetables are still crisp and before they soften: 2-3minutes at most.

9.   Finally, return the cooked cashew nuts to the wok along with the sesame oil.  Briefly stir through the mixture and serve immediately.

10.  Serve, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds (optional) and on a bed of plain boiled rice or boiled noodles (or *egg fried rice, if you wish).  A small portion of prawn crackers can be served on the side, they are easy to fry if you can find uncooked ones, but can also be bought ready cooked in large supermarkets.  Soy sauce lovers may like to drizzle over a little additional dark or light soy sauce.

*For egg fried rice, stir fry pre-cooked rice in a little sunflower oil in a wok.  Beat an egg and quickly stir through the rice mixture, turning (stir frying) constantly so that the egg cooks through and does not stick to the wok and burn.  Season and serve quickly.

More stir fried dishes:
Chinese Style Belly Pork & Greens/Broccoli/Bok Choy
Special Fried Rice

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Around Easter, when I was searching for a recipe for Chocolate Rice Krispie Nests, the clearest recipe and the one I eventually used came from the Netmums site.  Another recipe there, for Banana Flapjacks, caught my eye and I made a mental note to try it out. Flapjacks are so simple to make: in less than 45 minutes I had a wonderful smelling batch cooling on a wire rack.  These are ideal lunch box fillers.  I made a mental note to make a larger quantity in the future: somehow 8 or 10 bars is not really enough for a hungry family! 

The original of this recipe, Banana Flapjacks, was contributed by Anne at NetmumsIt is certainly a great way to use up ripe bananas.  I have adapted it a little, adding dessicated coconut which we love and combines really well with the banana.  It is certainly worth doubling the original recipe.  Why not make two trays: one flavoured with coconut plus another with cocoa powder (an alternative suggested in the original recipe) or by replacing the sultanas with chocolate chips, a different dried fruit or nut.  (See additional recipe below.)

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com


Banana & Coconut Flapjack

(Makes 8-10 pieces)

40g/1½ozs butter
60g/2½ozs demerara or soft brown sugar
1tbsp golden syrup
225g/8ozs porridge oats
50g/2ozs raisins (halve quantity if dividing mixture to make two flavours)
2 small bananas
15g/½oz dessicated coconut (optional)

1.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.  Lightly grease a baking tray around 15cm x 20cm/6 inches x8 inches.  (Foil trays from shop bought flapjacks are ideal.)

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan or in the microwave in a microwave proof bowl. Stir in the sugar and golden syrup. Stir well. (If using a microwave it is better to melt in several short bursts of heat until the butter is just melted to avoid overheating.)

3. Mash the bananas well.  Mix into the butter/sugar/syrup mixture along with the oats.

4.  The raisins should be added at this point. 
(Alternatively two different flavours of flapjack can be made.  The above ingredients should be doubled and the resulting mixture halved, finishing each half differently: 
-To the first half add raisins and the dessicated coconut (if using).
-To the second half add 1tbsp cocoa powder: with either chocolate chips or more raisins – or something else, as you wish).

5.  Spread into the greased baking tray and flatten well with a fork.

6.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 mins until slightly brown.

7.  Leave to cool slightly, carefully remove from the baking/foil tray, cut into squares or fingers and leave to cool on a wire rack.

8.  Store in an airtight box or tin.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Choc-Nut Banana Flapjack
Use above recipe omitting raisins & coconut:

2tbsp cocoa powder, sieved (or more)
50g/2oz roughly chopped hazelnuts

Eat quickly as the nuts soften and deteriorate and we felt did not keep very well.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Choc-Cherry Banana Flapjack
Use above recipe omitting raisins & coconut:

25g/1oz dark chocolate
  (chopped or chips) 
or
2tbsp cocoa powder, sieved
and
50g/2ozs chopped glace cherries

 

 

 

Thoughts on other possible alternative combinations (untried):

Double Chocolate & Banana – add:
2tbsp cocoa powder, sieved (or more)
and
50g/2ozs chocolate chips (in place of raisins)

Chocolate, Ginger & Banana – add:
2tbsp cocoa powder, sieved (or more)
and
50g/2ozs chopped crystallised or stem ginger (in place of raisins)

Apricot-Ginger & Banana – add:
3ozs of crystallised ginger and chopped dried apricots (in place of raisins)

Date-Ginger & Banana – add:
30zs crystallised ginger and chopped dates (in place of raisins)

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This recipe is based on the ‘Knock Up’ Fruit Cake basic recipe, with apricots, dates and brazil nuts taking the place of the dried mixed fruit.  This version would be good for a special occasion as it uses more expensive ingredients: I made it  when my mother came to tea with us on Mothering Sunday.For this cake the quantity of mixture was doubled, using five eggs and it was then divided between two equally sized tins.  I mixed the cake mixture the evening before it was baked the following lunchtime, covering and leaving it in the fridge overnight.  I had not tried doing this before but it did not affect the finished cake in any way.  I would definitely make this fruit cake in advance again if necessary.  The sugar topping was added just before the cake was baked.  In this case I was over generous with the sugar I had reserved, but the cake ended up with a lovely thick and crunchy sugared topping.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Apricot, Date & Brazil Nut Cake

Basic Recipe: Knock Up Fruit Cake without the dried mixed fruit, plus … 

4ozs/125g dried apricots, cut into 3
4ozs/125g pitted dates, cut into 3
2ozs/65g brazil nuts, chopped (large pieces)

Mix and bake the cake using the basic recipe instructions, replacing the mixed dried fruit at Step 5 with the apricots, dates and brazil nut pieces and sprinkle over reserved sugar for a crunchy topping.

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