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There was a glut of fresh figs on our market during the autumn and I was able to buy a whole tray really inexpensively.  My family could eat a whole tray in one sitting and these were particularly sweet and soft, but I squirrelled a few away so I could try this wonderful sounding dish.  At the same time on the market there were the last of the years peaches and nectarines, a little hard and not easy to ripen, so not especially good for eating, but ideal for cooking which brings out their flavour beautifully.  A good reminder of the last of summer.

My starting point for this recipe came from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson and had the exotic sounding name: Figs for 1001 Nights.  I gently grilled the fruits in the spiced butter as in the original recipe but using peaches as well as figs.  An alternative would be to pop them briefly in a hot oven, but I would only do this if I already had the oven on to cook something else  – flash grilling is fine.  Nigella used a little rosewater and orange flower water in her basting mixture.  I used the orange flower but although I had the rose water in my cupboard I left it out as my daughter sadly dislikes the traditional rose turkish delight flavour.   I do have a bottle of rose syrup in the cupboard, however, so I used this as a pouring sauce for those of us who do like it.  (As an alternative she used a little honey, which proved equally as good as honey and figs are also a good match.)  Rose syrup is a lovely item to have in the cupboard and is delicious with rhubarb and yoghurt, or poured over ice cream, however it is very sweet so I suggest it is used sparingly at first as it can be quite overpowering.  I have some sachets of vanilla sugar, bought on holiday in France, with one being just about 1 tbsp.  If this is not available then substitute granulated sugar and a very small amount of vanilla extract, one or two drops maximum.

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

Grilled Figs & Peaches
(Serves 6 – 6 figs & 6 peaches/nectarines)

1 fresh fig per person (or 2 smaller ones)
1 fresh peach or nectarine per person
25 g unsalted butter
½tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
or
1 tbsp granulated sugar & 1 or 2 drops vanilla extract
½tsp orange flower water
To serve:
50 g pistachio nuts, chopped
Crème fraîche
Rose syrup, to drizzle – to taste or honey

1. Preheat the grill on a high heat – alternatively use an oven set to a high heat, at least 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.

2. Carefully cut the figs with a cross shape as if quartering them but do not cut righ through to the bottom and then gently press each fig.  They should look like four petalled flowers.

3.  Cut the peaches or nectarines into halves or quarters, depending on size, removing the stones.

4.  Place the opened figs and peach/nectarine pieces in a snugly fitting single layer in a heatproof dish.

5.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave in a glass microwave proof bowl or jug.  Stir in the cinnamon, sugar and orange flower water until the sugar has dissolved.  If you are using rose water rather than syrup, as in the original recipe, add it at this point (½tsp should be enough).  Stir well and baste the figs and peaches/nectarines.

6.  Place under the hot grill or into the oven for just a few minutes.  The fruit should warm through slightly and the skins should start to blister from the heat.  Beware leaving too long, especially if oven cooked, as the fruit can become over soft and could also burn.

7.  Serve immediately giving each person two figs and one peach or nectarine (either two or four pieces depending on how they have been cut.   Add a generous spoonful of crème fraîche and pour over the brown cooking juices  and a drizzle of rose syrup (if you have not used rose water in the cooking mixture) or honey.  Finally sprinkle over some chopped green pistachio nuts.

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I have had mixed experiences with making cakes containing fresh fruit.  The first time I made an apple cake it was definitely delicious but the texture and look felt more like a pudding than a cake.  It seemed rather claggy and was great with custard but I did not feel it was particularly presentable for a tea-time treat.  It deteriorated quickly in the cake tin as it was so moist and was just about edible on the second day but definitely past it after that.  I was a little unsure about wanting to repeat the experience, but we have been snowed under with gifts of apples this year.  By all accounts it has been a bumper harvest.  I decided to take a risk using a different recipe and this time the results and especially the texture were very much better.  Actually, this recipe was so popular that I did not have to worry about it lasting as long as day three, however if it had I am sure it would have been edible.

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

You will not be surprised to know that this is yet another recipe from my original paperback copy of Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes, which is well thumbed and in places loose leaf.  (I was looking for the recipe for Caraway Seed Cake, one of my favourites, which will follow another time … but I digress …!)  This page popped open and it sounded lovely – and conveniently there was a small lonely bottle of French cider sitting in the cupboard.  My only argument with the recipe is the instruction for placing slices of apple on the top.  I spent quite some time making an attractive decorative pattern in concentric rings only to find this was completely unnecessary as it was completely obliterated by the topping mixture.  Next time I will either scatter the slices evenly over the top before adding the topping or even try dicing the remaining apple (but into fairly small pieces), before mixing with most of the topping and evenly scattering it over.  It can then be finished off with the remainder of the topping mix and the split almonds certainly add a lovely nutty crunch, although they could be omitted.  As for the cider, we could really taste it in the cake.  I am sure that apple juice would make a good substitute but obviously would not be quite the same.  I served this as a warm dessert accompanied by vanilla ice cream with some cake left over to cut and eat cold later.  If it is going to be served as a pudding you could go the whole hog and serve it with Brandy Sauce, the type some people serve with Christmas pudding!

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

Spiced Apple & Cider Cake

For the cake:
50zs/150g margerine or butter
5ozs/150g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
8ozs/225g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp grated nutmeg
¼pt/150ml dry cider
3 smallish cooking apples (I used 1lb 40zs/600g)
For the topping:
1oz/25g butter
1oz/25g plain flour
2ozs/50g dark soft brown sugar
2tsp cinnamon
1oz/25g blanched & chopped or split almonds

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  Line and grease a 8inch/20cm loose bottomed cake tin.

First make the cake:
2.  Cream the butter and sugar together until light, pale and fluffy.

3.  Beat the eggs and add a little at a time, beating well each time a some egg is added.

4.  Sieve the flour, nutmeg and baking powder together.

5.  Fold half of this flour mix into the mixture using a metal spoon.  Add half of the cider.

6.  Fold in the remaining flour mix.  Add the remaining cider.

7.  Peel, core and chop one apple and fold into the cake mixture.

8.  Spoon the cake mixture evenly into the prepared tin, smoothing with the back of a spoon.

Prepare the topping:
9.  Measure the flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl and rub together with fingertips until it has a coarse and crumbly texture similar to breadcrumbs.  Add the chopped or split almonds.

10. The remaining apples should be peeled, cored and sliced thinly before arranging the slices, overlapping slightly, on the top of the cake.  This can be done fairly roughly – these will be completely underneath the layer of topping mixture so it is not worth spending a lot of time making a highly decorative pattern with the apple!

11. Scatter the topping mixture evenly on top.

12. Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 1¼-1½hrs or until the cake starts to shrink away from the sides of the tin.

13.  Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.

14.  Remove carefully and transfer to a wire rack.

15.  Serve warm as a dessert with cream or ice cream. Alternatively cut when cool and serve at tea time.

16.  The liquid in the fruit will make this a moist cake and the moistness will make it start to go mouldy quickly so be aware that it needs to be eaten within a day or so.

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There is some confusion over the origins of the Tarte Tatin with the suggestion that it probably resulted from a kitchen error: it sounds as if the cook was trying to cover up the mistake with a pastry lid and instead created a classic!   Until recently I had thought it was complicated, putting me off trying out the recipe.  Perhaps it was the French style name, which added a certain mystique!  In truth, however, Tarte Tatin is simply an upside down pie containing caramelised fruit which is not at all difficult to make – at least not this version.  Tarte Tatin is commonly made with firm dessert apples, which hold their shape and so are preferable to using cooking apples.  However this version caught my eye, even though I was a Tarte Tatin novice (to be honest, I had some ripe bananas which needed using, which helped make up my mind).  Tarte Tatin seems a very versatile dish as it can be made with a variety of fruits: pears, peaches or pineapple are suggestions I have read but I think plums or apricots would be good too. (I ate a pineapple and coconut version on holiday last year.)  A savoury version using tomatoes or onions is also possible.   Now I realise how straightforward it is to make, especially using shop bought ready made Puff Pastry, I really must have a go at the apple version.  Watch this space and I will eventually add a link! 

This recipe came from the ASDA supermarket free instore magazine from Jan 2010, originally called Banana Toffee Tart but renamed by me.  I reduced the quantity of fat and sugar from 75g to just 30g of each as I felt that there was rather too much liquid and it was over oily.  I first served this Tarte Tatin at a family midweek birthday supper and was surprised how quickly it was made.  I think it would be good made as individual tarts, perhaps in crumpet, muffin or egg poaching rings set in a larger frying pan.  Serve this dessert with custard, cream or ice cream, but my personal opinion is that soured cream or crème fraîche would be better to counter the sweetness – this is a very sweet dessert!

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

Butterscotch Banana Tarte Tatin
(Serves 4)

30g Butter
30g soft light brown sugar
8 medium Bananas, just ripe
375g ready rolled puff pastry
½tsp ground nutmeg

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC Fan/200oC/400oF/Gas 6.  If you have a suitably sized frying pan with a handle that will stand the heat of the oven this can be made in one pan.

2.  On a floured surface, roll out the pastry into a round shape just a little larger than the pan or tin.

3.  To make the butterscotch sauce, melt the butter and sugar together in a pan (or the frying pan).  Simmer for 2-3 minutes until they are well dissolved, hot and bubbling.  If using the frying pan then remove half of the butterscotch mixture and set aside otherwise pour half of the butterscotch mixture into the base of a 25cm shallow round tin (without a removable base). 

4.  Lay the bananas evenly in the pan or tin in a single layer.  This can either be done leaving the bananas whole or cutting them into chunks of even thickness.  Pour over the remainder of the butterscotch mixture.

5.  Lay the pastry over the bananas in the pan and lightly tuck in the edges around the edge.  Make 2 or 3 small slashes in the pastry.

6.  Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisped.

6.  Remove the tin or pan from the oven.  Leave to stand for 3-4 minutes before carefully inverting onto a plate so that the banana faces upwards.

7.  Sprinkle the tart generously with nutmeg. 

8.  Serve immediately with crème fraîche, soured cream, cream, custard or ice cream.

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So, here we are in a New Year with Christmas over and just a few remnants of festive foods lurking in the fridge and cupboard.  This recipe is one of the best I know for using up the last of the mincemeat, but actually I would happily open a new jar to make this.  There are two recipes for sweet mincemeat on this site.  Most recently I have added a delicious Suet Free Mincemeat which is ideal for this recipe.  There is also Last Minute Mincemeat, a method for augmenting a standard shop bought jar and very helpful if you have just small amount left over from Christmas.  (For a small quantity for each 4tbsp mincemeat add around 3tbsp dried mixed fruit, 1tbsp brandy, 2tbsp orange juice and 4 chopped glace cherries.)  About half a jar full is needed for the recipe, but if it is slightly less don’t worry.  If you are just slightly short of the quantity required, a third and very quick method would be to simply add a scattering of mixed dried fruit.  For the record, another good way of using up leftover sweet mincemeat is in a Candlemas Crumble, which is good at any time, not just on 2nd February!  I served a large (double sized) version of Mincemeat & Almond Delight at this year’s New Year’s Day meal for our extended family as an alternative to a Sherry Berry Jelly Trifle.  Most people ate seconds, coming back for the pudding they had not tried first time round! 

The recipe for Mincemeat & Almond Delight comes from The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cookbook.  It is a shortcrust pastry flan case filled with Mincemeat and sliced banana and covered with an almond mixture similar to that in Bakewell Tart, known as crème d’amande (almond cream).  French Style Pear Tart/Pear Pie Bordalue (Tarte aux Poires), also with crème d’amande, uses a similar method and a recipe will eventually also be posted here.  I am indebted to Clothilde at Chocolate & Zucchini (one of my favourite blogs) in her post  about Galette des Rois (something else I fully intend to make one day!)  She helpfully writes:

“There is a lot of confusion between crème d’amande, and frangipane, so here’s the difference: crème d’amande (almond cream) is a simple mix of butter, sugar, ground almonds, and eggs, more or less in equal parts. Frangipane, on the other hand, is a blend of crème d’amande and crème pâtissière (pastry cream), which is made with eggs, milk, sugar, and flour or cornstarch.” 

So now you – and I – know the difference.  Having written that the filling for this recipe and the Pear Pie Bordalue was Frangipane I now stand corrected and I have amended my words accordingly.  Thanks Clothilde!  The original recipe used a butter rich pastry crust, but I opted for a standard Shortcrust Pastry using my usual method.  I also finished the tart with a sprinkling of split almonds, toasted as the tart baked, which gave a Bakewell Tart appearance.  This recipe can also be made as individual sized tarts for tea time. 

Mincemeat & Almond Delight
(Serves 6)

Shortcrust Pastry to line a 20cm/8inch flan case
50g/2ozs butter
50g/2ozs caster or soft brown sugar
50g/2ozs ground almonds
2 eggs, lightly beaten
a few drops almond essence, extract if you can get it
225g/8ozs mincemeat (about half a jar – see details above)
2 bananas, thinly sliced 
25g/1oz split almonds to finish (optional)

1.  Make the shortcrust pastry (I used 6ozs flour and 3ozs fat). Wrap in plastic and leave in the fridge to chill for at least 30minutes.

2.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.   Roll out the pastry and line the greased and floured flan case.   Fill with beans and bake blind for 10minutes.  When cool enough, remove the beans and when cool store for another use.

3.  Reduce the oven heat to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.

4.  Make the almond cream. Cream the butter and sugar together.  Gradually beat in the egg.  Add the ground almonds and almond essence and mix together well.

5.  Spread the mincemeat evenly into the pastry case and cover with the slices of banana.

6.  Pile the almond cream on top of the banana and spread evenly to the edges of the case.

7.  Sprinkle with almonds and bake for 35-40minutes until golden brown. 

8.  Best served hot or warm, but also good cold.  Serve with custard and/or cream, crème fraîche or soured cream.  If you have leftover brandy butter it can be served with this tart.

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A fruit compote is a mixture of lightly baked or stewed fruit or fruits, usually combined with a sweetener and served either hot or cold as an accompaniment to ice cream, yoghurt, crème fraîche, soured cream, cold or hot rice pudding or similar.  It is also delicious served with a slice of egg custart tart or alongside a fairly plain dessert cake, with a little single cream poured over.  When on holiday cold fruit compote is usually available at breakast in French motels: cherry/raspberry or apple are both very popular and there is always yoghurt available to eat.  However Compote is a traditional English dessert dating from the 17th century, being whole or pieces of fruit in sugar syrup.  The syrup may also be flavoured: vanilla, lemon/orange peel, cinnamon, clove, ground almonds, grated coconut, candied fruit, or raisins are common additions.  Honey can be used as an alternative sweetener.  I have read and heard in several places recently the benefits of sweetening fruit with fructose (natural fruit sugar).  Apparently, using just a third of the quantity of normal sugar (sucrose) really enhances the flavour of fruit.  I have not tried this myself but it is certainly something to bear in mind and I have just bought a small packet.  I would be interested to hear of any readers experiences on using fructose in place of sucrose – I am not talking about aspartame, a sugar substitute which is banned in some countries. 

This idea was found at two sources, but is my own variation: a mixture of an idea from a recipe by Claire Macdonald on the UKTV site, Lemon Cream with Rhubarb & Orange Compote and a recent free recipe card, Super Sticky Rhubarb, found in Sainsbury’s supermarket.  Compote can be kept in a sealed box in the fridge for up to four days, so it is worth making a double quantity.  I have already added posts on this site for similar fruit mixtures: Marmalade & Ginger Baked Bananas and Lemony Baked Pears & Peaches.  Other variations will be added below.   These compote recipes can be used to make variations on the simple, creamy & delicious summer dessert Eton Mess.  Slightly strain the compote so that it is not too liquid and alternate spoonfuls of the compote with the cream mixture and meringue pieces, stirring very gently if needed and decorating with a few small pieces of whole fruits and meringue (see Eton Mess recipe for further details).  Any compote liquid not used can be combined with yoghurt to make a smoothie, slightly diluted to taste with water (or milk if the fruits used will not cause it to curdle) for a delicious quick drink or simply used to add sweetness to a fruit salad.  Rhubarb and Raspberry (see below) is very popular in our house and recently we have enjoyed this when mixed with rosewater or drizzled with a little rose syrup as well.  Pear Compote with Lemon, Honey and Ginger (for those who like it) may possibly be reminiscent of cough mixture to some and is definitely a warming winter mixture, but we enjoy it at any time of year.  For an extra treat, pour a small amount of a complementary alcoholic fruit liqueur over these compotes just before serving! 

Additional recipes below:
Rhubarb and Raspberry/Rosy Rhubarb & Raspberry
Pear Compote with Lemon, Honey and Ginger

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

Rhubarb & Orange Compote
(Serves 4)

450g/1lb rhubarb, cut into 5cm/2inch chunks
100g/3½ozs demerara or light brown sugar
1 large orange, juice and zest

Oven method: 
1.  Preheat oven to 170oC/325oF/Gas 3

2.  Combine the ingredients in an ovenproof dish.

3.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the fruit is tender but still identifiable.

4.  Serve warm or cold.

Microwave method:
1.   Combine the ingredients in an microwave proof dish.

2.  Cook on a low heat, for 10-15minutes or until the fruit is tender but still identifiable.

3.  Serve warm or cold.

Stove Top/Hob method:
1.  Combine the ingredients in an saucepan.

2.  Bring to the boil and immediately turn down the heat.  Simmer very gently for about 30 minutes, or until the fruit is tender but still identifiable.

3. Serve warm or cold.

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

Rhubarb & Raspberry/
Rosy Rhubarb & Raspberry Compote

450g/1lb rhubarb, cut into
    5cm/2inch chunks
180g/6½ozs demerara or light brown
    sugar
225g/8ozs fresh Raspberries – more if you
    wish
Rosewater/Rose syrup to taste (optional)

Gently stew the chunks of rhubarb in the sugar until soft but still holding its shape.  If using frozen raspberries add while still warm.  Fresh rasperries can be added when cold.  Chill in fridge until needed. Overstirring raspberries can make them break up.  

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

Pear Compote with Lemon, Honey & (optional) Ginger

1-2 Conference Pears per person
1 lemon
1-2 tbsp runny honey
Small piece of root ginger (optional), grated
Peel pears and cut lengthwise into 8-12 long pieces depending on size of pear (or smaller chunks).  Place in a small saucepan.  Cut lemon into quarters.  Immediately squeeze juice over pears pieces before they go brown.  Add empty lemon shells to pan and stew with pear to add flavour.  Drizzle honey over fruit. Sprinkle over ginger if using.  Poach over low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until pears are soft.

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This dessert is relatively uncomplicated and can be usefully cooked alongside an oven baked main course, especially as it does not take too long to make or cook.   It is ideal when you have a glut of bananas, especially as it needs ones that are slightly over rather than under ripe. 

The recipe is my own and it resulted from an experiment.  We love baked banana, Marmalade (the type made from bitter Seville oranges rather than orange jam) and ginger so I felt as if they might be a dessert match made in heaven: and I was right!   I have found, by experience, that bananas should not be cooked for too long so that they keep their shape and stay reasonably pale coloured.   The dessert can be eaten hot, warm or cold, although it should not be left to stand for too long as the bananas can start to darken and look very unattractive.  Yoghurt, soured cream or crème fraîche provide a good contrast to the sweetness of the fruit mixture, although it would be equally delicious served with cream or ice cream.  A sprinkling of dessicated coconut adds an additional tropical touch adding to the flavours of the Caribbean.

100_4257 Marmalade & Ginger Baked Bananas with Gk yog & dess coconut

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

Marmalade & Ginger Baked Bananas
(Serves 4)

4-8 ripe bananas, sliced (1cm/½inch pieces) – 1-2 per person, depending on size
1-2 tbsp citrus juice, lemon or orange, squeezed from fresh fruit
4tbsp Seville Orange Marmalade, preferably with chunky shreds
2 pieces chopped stem ginger
2 tsp stem ginger syrup
   or
5-6tbsp ginger marmalade (omit stem ginger and syrup if using this)
4tsp dessicated coconut, to serve (optional)

If using a microwave oven, this dish can be cooked in individual bowls.  Divide ingredients between bowls (apart from yoghurt, soured cream, crème fraîche, cream and dessicated coconut) and cook for around 5 minutes on a medium heat (consult your microwave manual for details). 

1.  Preheat oven to 170oC/325oF/Gas 3.

2.  Thin down the marmalade a little using 1-2 tbsp citrus juice, so it can be poured.  Chop the pieces of stem ginger and stir into the marmalade sauce, along with the ginger syrup.  (If using ginger marmalade  this last step should be omitted and the amount of ginger marmalade increased by 1-2 tbsp.)

3.  Slice the bananas and place into a shallow serving dish.

4.  Pour the sauce over the bananas.

5.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  The bananas should be slightly soft, but still retain their shape and colour and the sauce should still be liquid.

6.  Serve either hot, warm or cold with yoghurt, soured cream, crème fraîche, cream or ice cream, topped with dessicated coconut.

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At our regular church Sunday lunches, a roast dinner with all the trimmings has been followed by a ‘proper’ pudding: a selection of fruit crumbles, which are both easy to make and tasty.  It has been interesting to see what variations people have brought and one of the most unusual and popular has been a chocolate and banana crumble with a nutty topping.  (I have previously written about crumbles and have been collecting ideas for alternative toppings: see Basic Recipe: Sweet Crumble Mixtures.)

That was back in early February and a short while later I discovered a small recipe card in Sainsburys supermarket with a fairly similar recipe called Choc-banana Crumble, (also here) recommended as a Mothering Sunday treat. It was also part of the 2010 Fairtrade fortnight campaign (22 February – 7 March) encouraging consumers to change one or more shopping item in their basket to a Fairly Traded alternative, as the recipe includes Fairly Traded ingredients: chocolate powder, bananas, sugar and nuts. (The Fairtrade Foundation seeks to promote justice and sustainable development, encouraging consumers to buy Fairly Traded items to give a fair deal to marginalised producers in developing countries.)  When I made the Sainsbury version we found it rather dry but the second time I improved this by adding orange zest and juice, which also stopped the bananas from browning.  The orange, along with dessicated coconut, also added much more depth to the flavour.  Pineapple juice (not very popular in our house, which is why I did not choose it) would make a good alternative to the orange juice, making this crumble even more tropical.  The bananas need to be fairly ripe: I have used underripe bananas but they did not soften properly and made the dish seem flavourless.

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

Tropical Banana & Chocolate Crumble
(Serves 6) 

6 Fairtrade bananas, fairly ripe – reserve a few slices to decorate
100g/3½ozs plain flour
80g/2½ozs chilled butter, cut into small cubes
40g/1½oz Fairtrade drinking chocolate
25g/1oz Fairtrade Demerara sugar
50g/2ozs Fairtrade Brazil nuts, roughly chopped
50g/2oz Fairtrade Dessicated coconut
1 large orange, juice and zest – reserve a few strands of zest to decorate

1.  Preheat the oven to 190ºC/170ºC Fan/370oF/Gas 5.

2.  Put the sifted flour, chilled butter, drinking chocolate and sugar in a bowl. Using fingertips, rub the mixture together until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Stir in the nuts and half of the dessicated coconut.

3.  Peel and slice the bananas and reserve a few slices for decoration. Arrange them in the base of a large shallow ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle with orange zest (reserving a few strands to decorate), the remaining dessicated coconut and pour over the orange juice.

4.  Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the bananas.  Decorate with the sliced banana and zest strands

5.  Bake the dish for about 20 minutes or until piping hot.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

6.  Serve with crème fraîche, cream or warm custard.

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It is possible to detect the influence of France in Moroccan cuisine, not unsurprising as the countries have historical links.  This dessert feels as if it is closely related to the French dish Clafoutis (or it’s close relative Flognarde), although the egg custard is replaced by a sweet ground rice pudding mixture.  However the addition of rose water (or orange flower water, which is listed as an alternative) firmly connects this dish with the southern shores of the Mediterranean.  The suggestion of rice pudding might make the casual reader feel that this is a rather homely dish, as they are usually linked with nursery food rather than dinner parties.  However this would make an unusual and delicious dessert as part of N African style meal, especially made in individually sized portions.

The recipe comes from a wonderful book I found in the library, Illustrated Food and Cooking of Africa and the Middle East: A Fascinating Journey Through the Rich and Diverse Cuisines of Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey and Lebanon by Josephine Bacon and Jenni Fleetwood (to give it its full title).  The ingredients are all as listed in the book, except I found it necessary to increase both the ground rice and sugar by 1tbsp.  This increase of the sugar content  is, of course, optional but is recommended for those with a sweet tooth as plums can often be acidic.  I made the original suggestion of Plums combined with Rosewater, but other fruits could also be used.  Orange flower water is a suggested alternative addition and I can imagine that this would be delicious used in combination with Apricots or Peach.  The addition of flaked almonds adds a lovely crunch to the smooth texture of the ground rice: don’t be tempted to omit them. Finally, I added a generous dusting of icing sugar, which enhanced the cracks in the surface of the plums and where their juices had run into the whiteness of the rice.  I further handful of toasted flaked almonds on top would be a good addition, athough not included in the original recipe, particularly for a special occasion.  I am sure this recipe could be made a short while in advance and reheated just before serving, although I would add the sifted icing sugar and additional split almonds just before taking it to the table.

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

Moroccan Style Plum Pudding
(Serves 4)

450g/1lb fresh plums (alternative suggestions – apricots, cherries or greengages)
600ml/1pt skimmed or semi-skimmed (half fat) milk
60ml/4tbsp ground rice
45ml/3tbsp cold water
45ml/3tbsp caster sugar (15ml/1tbsp extra for those with a sweet tooth)
75g/3ozs flaked almonds – reserve a few to toast for decoration (or add a few more)
30ml/2tbsp rosewater (alternatively orange flower water)
icing sugar to dust

1.  Preheat the oven to 190oC/370oF/Gas 5.

2. Remove the stones from the plums and halve them.

3.  Bring the milk to the boil in a pan.

4.  Blend the ground rice with the cold water, a little at a time, mixing well to remove the lumps.  Pour the hot milk over the rice and return it to the pan.  Simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until it thickens.

5.  Stir in the caster sugar and flaked almonds.  Continue to cook for 5 more minutes.  

6.  Stir in the rosewater (or orange flower water).  Simmer for 2 minutes.

7.  Butter a shallow ovenproof dish.  Carefully pour in the almond rice mixture.

8.  Gently arrange the prepared plums (or other fruit) on top, spacing them as evenly as possible.

9.  Bake for 25-30minutes, until the fruit has softened.  As it cooks the fruit juices will run slightly into the white almond-rice mixture, which is unavoidable.

10.  Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately with a little pouring cream or crème fraîche if you like a slightly more sour taste.

11.  Scatter with a few toasted split almonds to decorate.

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Do you find that some recipes stay with you down the years?  This cake is one I learned to make in Domestic Science (Cookery) when I was at school.  Seems a long time ago now, but it has stood the test of time.  (The original recipe uses the old Imperial measurement of the gill.  I remember learning: ‘4 gills are 1 pint, 2 pints are 1 quart, 4 quarts are 1 gallon, 1 pints are 1 gallon …’ so there you are, proof that I listened in school!  Nevertheless I have converted it to a more measurable amount for the 21st Century.)  The teacher called it simply Gingerbread but, as I usually now connect this word with something more like a biscuit, I have added the word Cake to the title.  There are one or two other good recipes in my old exercise book which ought to be added to this site at some future date. 

The recipe uses a technique (my 12year old handwriting says) called the ‘melting method’: the sugar and oils are gently heated together until liquid and then combined with the dry ingredients.  The basic recipe is for a plain ginger cake but sultanas or raisins could be added, but for real ginger lovers crystallised ginger or ginger marmalade could be included instead or as well.  I think it would be possible to make a citrus/ginger version but have not tried a it: experiment by replacing some of the milk with juice and/or adding orange or lemon rind or marmalade.  The proportions of 50% Treacle and 50% Golden Syrup can be adjusted as well to give a less treacly version.  The school version was baked in a square tin, but I have successfully made it in a round tin as well and am sure that it could also be baked in a loaf tin. The cake is finished with a dusting of icing sugar or drizzled icing.  Alternatively a sticky top could be achieved by adding a sugar & water glaze – see Fragrant Chocolate Orange Marble Cake.

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


Gingerbread Cake

6ozs/170g self-raising flour
1tsp/5g ground ginger
¼tsp/1.25g mixed spices
¼tsp/1.25g cinnamon
pinch salt
2ozs/55g black treacle
2ozs/55g golden syrup
20zs/55g dark brown sugar
3ozs/85g lard (try white vegetable fat as an alternative, but I have never tried it)
1 egg
¾gill/scant 4fl ozs/110ml milk
¼tsp/1.25g bicarbonate of soda

Additional flavourings to add (but not all at the same time), not in original recipe:
20zs/55g dried fruit or chopped crystallised ginger – optional
2tbsp marmalade or ginger marmalade – optional
grated lemon or orange zest – optional
lemon or orange juice, in place of milk – optional

1.  Preheat oven to 170oC Fan oven/180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  Line a 7inch/18cm square tin with baking parchment.  Alternatively use an 8inch/20cm round tin or a 2lb loaf tin (see picture).

2.  Sift together the flour, spices and salt.

3.  Put the treacle, syrup, sugar and lard in a saucepan and carefully heat together on a low temperature until melted.  Do not boil.  Leave to cool a little.

4.  Beat the egg and pour into a well (a depression) in the centre of the flour.  Add a little of the melted mixture and blend together.  Continue to mix together gradually until all the melted mixture is used up.  If using orange or lemon zest, dried fruit or crystallised ginger it should be added at this point.

5.  Add about three-quarters of the milk and stir in.  Blend the bicarbonate of soda into the remaining milk and stir into the rest of the cake mixture.  Beat very well.

6.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.

7.  Bake for about 50mins-1hour.  Cover with a piece of tin foil for the final 15 minutes of cooking time if the cake starts to get too dark. 

8.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with icing sugar.  For a sticky surface brush with a mixture of sugar dissolved in water before the cake dries.

8.  Can be served both as a cake and as a dessert with custard or cream.

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Every so often I come across an ingredient that is new to me.  In 2009 Dulce de Leche kept cropping up: used as a pouring sauce topping for puddings and ice cream, in a cake at Culinary Travels (untried) and even as an Ice Cream flavour at Smitten Kitchen (also untried).  Dulce de Leche  means literally ‘sweet of milk’ in Spanish and a little research helped me to realise that it was similar to a food fashion from a few years ago which I knew by the uninspiring name of ‘tin’.  I never tried to make it, but friends told me that if you gently boiled an unopened tin of condensed milk for several hours, once it was cool it could be opened to reveal a delicious pouring toffee.  (I have since found the instructions for making Dulce de Leche in various places online: there are detailed instructions from purplefoodie and also at gastronomydomine along with a delicious sounding, but untried, by me, recipe for Banoffee Pie.  Be warned though that, despite what you read, tins can explode: it happened to a friend, although she did admit that the pan boiled dry!  There are two alternative methods listed by Fig Jam & Lime Cordial, one using a microwave and the other cooked in a bain marie/water bath in the oven.)  Having read that French supermarkets stock Confiture du Lait (literally ‘milk jam’), which is more or less the same item, after some searching I managed to find some there when I was on holiday last year (Bonne Maman brand).  I bought a jar so I could experiment at home.  I understand Dulce de Leche can be bought in the UK, but I have so far seen it just once in a local ethnic supermarket where it was rather expensive, however I haven’t looked that hard since I brought my supply home from France!  I have also read that there is a UK brand of toffee in a squeezy tube, but I have never seen it.

There are recipes for bread and butter type puddings using croissants and I remember watching one being made on television, though I have forgotten where.  It’s a bit more ‘up market’ than the basic bread & butter pudding, an example of which is the Paddington Pudding I have already added on this site.  I tracked down a recipe which added apple and toffee sauce, simply called ‘That Croissant Bread & Butter Pudding’ on the National Baking Week site which I used as a starting point for my own version.  My finished pudding is not very sweet, which we enjoyed, although being a little more generous with the toffee sauce or adding Demerara sugar over the soaked croissants would make it more so. The original recipe suggested that Calvados (Apple Brandy) or sweet sherry could be included for an ‘adult’ pudding: I decided to use just a small amount of brandy which certainly added an extra dimension.  Leave it out if you wish: I am sure the pudding will be just as delicious without.  The croissants used were left over from a church event and had been frozen for several weeks, but this did not affect the finished pudding.

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

Toffee Apple Croissant (Bread & Butter) Pudding
(Serves 4)

6-8 croissants (stale is fine)
2 eggs
½pint/280ml milk 
2tbsp brandy – optional
Dulce de Leche/Confiture du Lait/’Tin’/Squeezy Toffee – to taste
½tsp vanilla extract
2ozs/60g dried fruit, sultanas or raisins are good
2-3 medium sized eating apples (I used Cox’s Orange Pippins)
juice of ½ lemon (or ‘Jif’ type bottled lemon, not squash): prevents the apples browning
10g/½oz butter, cut into small pieces
2tbsp demerara sugar (for the topping): more if you wish – optional
½pt/280ml single cream (some for mixing but most for serving)

1.  Spread the croissants generously with Dulce de Leche/Confiture du Lait or similar toffee sauce.  Cut the croissants into quarters.

2.  Butter a shallow 9-10 inch dish.  Tightly pack a layer of croissant pieces in the base of the dish, leaving as few spaces as possible.  

3.  Mix the eggs and milk together in a jug and add the vanilla extract and brandy.  Pour over the pudding, making sure the croissants are well soaked.  A little extra milk can be added if needed, depending on how many croissants have been used.  For best results, before the apple and mixed fruit are added, this dish should be left in a cool place to allow the milk mixture to fully soak into the croissants.  All day or overnight if possible, but at least 1 hour.

4.  Preheat the oven to 160oC/325oF/Gas 3. 

5.  Peel, core and slice the apples into slices.  Sprinkle with lemon juice.

6.  If you want extra sweetness then the Demerara sugar can be added either now, before adding the apples, or after the apple layer to give a crunchy finish.  Cover the soaked croissants with half of the dried fruit, then a layer of apple slices in lines to make a decorative pattern and then the remainder of the dried fruit.

7.  Dot the butter evenly over the apples.  Mix 2 tablespoons of Dulce de Leche/Confiture du Lait or similar toffee sauce with a similar quantity of cream, to give a pouring consistency and drizzle this over the whole pudding in a zig-zag pattern.

8.  If not already added, sprinkle demerara sugar over the pudding before cooking.

9.  If the dish has been in the fridge it should be allowed to come to room temperature before putting in the oven.

10. Place the pudding dish in a bain marie: a second dish carefully filled with boiling water that comes to about half way up the sides of the pudding dish. 

11. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 40-45 minutes, or until the apples are cooked, soft and lightly golden.

12. Serve with the remaining single cream.

See also:
Delamere Dairy Chocolate Croissant Bread & Butter Pudding untried

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