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Archive for the ‘Packed lunches’ Category

I once bought a jar of caramelised onion chutney at a fayre and promised myself that one day I would hunt out a recipe and make some myself.   It is a really useful addition to the store cupboard: delicious with cheese or cold meat, so especially good around Christmas when there are plenty of cold cuts, but also good stirred into gravy to add extra flavour.  If you like hot dogs then you could substitute this chutney for the fried onions and if you like sausage rolls then why not try the recipe on this site for Sausagemeat Plait substituting Caramelised Red (or White if you prefer) Onion Chutney for the Fennel & Apple Chutney.

Finding nothing particularly useable in my recipe books, I turned to the web and discovered several helpful recipes, in particular one from Tesco called Caramelised Onion Chutney, but I consulted other recipes as well.  One of these Red Onion & Balsamic Chutney, a Lesley Waters recipe on the Good Food Channel site, added orange which I wanted to include in my recipe, having made some onion marmalade (a mixture of seville orange and onions) some years ago. The Tesco recipe used a pinch of chill, but I used Piment d’Espelette as an alternative.  The recipe did not specify the type of onion, so I assume that it should be white ones, however as I had plenty I used red onions instead.  The only comment I would make is that I would have preferred the chutney to be pinkish rather than brown, reflecting the rosy colour of the onions.  The darkening came both from the brown sugar, even though I used light brown, the dark balsamic vinegar and the red wine vinegar.  If I did this again I woudl certainly use white wine vinegar and white balsamic vinegar and possibly white granulated sugar as well.   Ideally this recipe should be kept to mature for 6 – 12 months, according to the Tesco recipe.  I made mine at the start of November so by Christmas it will have matured for almost 2 months: not quite long enough I know but I plan to keep one jar by for next Christmas to see if it really does improve with age.

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

Caramelised Red Onion Chutney
(3 x 500g/1lb jars)

3tbsp olive oil
1·5kg/3lb onions – I used red onions
zest & juice of 1 orange
300g/10oz light muscovado sugar (or white granulated to help preserve colour)
200ml/7fl oz red wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar to help preserve colour)
3tbsp balsamic vinegar (or white to help preserve colour)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
½tsp salt
large pinch paprika
large pinch crushed chillies or Piment d’Espelette (Espelette pepper)

1.  Peel and thinly slice the onions.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan and using a low heat gently fry them for 10 minutes until they have softened.  They must not brown.

2.  Stir in 3 tbsp sugar.  Turn up the heat and cook the chutney for 3-4 minutes and allow the onions to brown, although if you want to preserve the pink colour of the chutney try not to let them brown very much.  Stir in the rest of the sugar and then add the remaining ingredients.

3.  Simmer the mixture gently for 10-15 minutes.  The liquid should reduce, the mixture thicken and turn a dark caramel colour.  (This instruction comes from the original: using white vinegars and sugar should hopefully preserve the colour a little better although adding the sugar will make it darken a little.)

4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

5.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

7.  If you can wait that long it is recommended that this chutney is stored for 6 – 12 months before use.

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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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One of the enjoyable parts of food blogging has turned out to be the contact with other likeminded people.  A few months ago, out of the blue, I was emailed by ‘Macaron Queen’ (at least that is how I think of her!) Jill Colonna from Mad About Macarons.  Following a comment I had left her about fruit curds, Jill was asking me if I would like to submit a curd ‘guest post’ for her series of recipes using egg yolks (macarons use just the whites).  I have to admit that I don’t really know how the ‘guest post’ system operates.  I hope that Jill can use this post, if it is helpful, in her search for ways to use up leftover egg yolks.

Over the past few months I have been trying out different fruit curd recipes I have found online and in various books.  The initial post was for the traditional Lemon Curd – here is my latest discovery, Mango Curd.  This recipe, with amendments by me, is loosely based on one from Smitten Kitchen who discovered it in Bon Appetit, June 1998.  All curds are smooth but the silky texture of the mango seems to enhance the creamy smoothness.  Be generous with the mango as the flavour is rather mild and can get a bit lost.  I have a round gadget with a blade, a promotional item which I was sent free because I bought two mangoes in ASDA last year.  I would  not have paid the large sum originally asked for it, but it does divide the fruit very easily – they are not easy beasts to cut up, especially if a bit on the soft side!  I usually add some lemon juice to non-citrus curds as the flavour helps cut through the richness and sweetness but the original recipe used lime which I have kept as it is so good in combination with mango.  Delicious!

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

Mango Curd
(Makes 1 x 1lb jar)

1 large or 2 small mangoes, peeled, pitted & chopped
115g/4ozs sugar
Juice of 1 lime (extra lime if solids not sieved)
Pinch of salt (or leave this out and use salted butter)
4 large egg yolks (or 2 whole eggs)
30g/2ozs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1.  Remove the large stone from the mango, cut into small pieces and purée, preferably in a food processor.

2. Combine with the sugar, lime juice and salt (if using). Add egg yolks or lightly beaten whole eggs. Purée for a little longer to thoroughly combine.

3. Push through a sieve into a large metal bowl with a large spatula or wooden spoon, pressing down well to obtain as much puree as possible. Discard the solids that remain in sieve.  (Alternatively omit this step for a thicker coarser curd – the yield will be higher and an extra half or whole jar required.)

4.  Place the metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water (but do not allow the base of bowl to come into contact with the water).  Add the butter and continue to simmer the mixture gently, stirring regularly, until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

5.  Wash the jars well and sterlise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw  it on.

6.  Beat the curd until it is creamy.  Pour into the prepared jars, cover and label.  Store in the refrigerator and use within 4-6 weeks.

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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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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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If I want to make a everyday fruit cake, unless it is the very rich type eaten at Christmas, this is the recipe I turn to.  The basic recipe for ‘Knock Up’ Fruit Cake, given to my mother by a friend, can easily be adapted.  This particular cake was made as a double quantity using very large tin (something I often do with this recipe) for a coffee and cake quiz evening at church.  

In this version, as well as dried mixed fruit I used some chopped crystallised ginger.  I felt that the ginger in my cupboard was a little hard, so soaked it in the milk for about 1hr to soften before cutting up and adding to the cake.  The gingery milk, of course, was reserved to add to the cake as in the instructions.  I also replaced the mixed spice with powdered ginger for an extra gingery flavour and as usual topped the cake with a little sugar for added crunch.

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

Ginger Fruit Cake

Basic Recipe: Knock Up Fruit Cake plus … 

4ozs/115g chopped crystallised ginger (soak in the 2 fl ozs milk if necessary) 
Make up quantity with dried mixed fruit up to 10ozs/285g.
Replace Mixed Spice with Powdered Ginger

Mix and bake the cake using the basic recipe instructions, weighing the ginger first  (beford soaking) and then making up to 10ozs/285g in weight with mixed dried fruit. Sprinkle over reserved sugar for a crunchy topping.

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A while ago I was invited to an ‘all girls’ afternoon tea by a friend.  Lots of tea served with dainty little savoury nibbles, scones and cake … wonderful cake!  One cake in particular took my fancy.  A moist cake filled with dried apricots and prunes which had been soaked in strong coffee.  I had made cake with fruit soaked in tea before, but never soaked in coffee.  Over the following days I did some hunting and some experimenting.  I love Mocha (the mixture of coffee and chocolate) and one recipe that caught my eye added nut chocolate to the cake mixture in place of fruits.  Unfortunately the recipe was tasty but the mixture far too moist, so not really successful.

In the end, I decided on a variation of my existing Bran Brack – Irish Tea Bread recipe (also sometimes called Bara Brith or Barm Brack) that always comes out well, but using coffee in place of tea and adding either nut chocolate or chocolate and nuts.  The coffee (preferably Fairly Traded) needs to be strong and freshly ground for best flavour.  It is very important not to omit the soaking in black coffee which is essential for re-hydrating the dried fruit to make it juicy.  Earlier in the day, when I had a cup of fresh coffee, I made an extra cup and left it to go cold.  Use Fairly Traded nuts and chocolate too, if available.  One third of the amount of dried fruit in the original Bran Brack recipe has been replaced by roughly chopped chocolate and nuts.  I used a small bar (100g) of Chocolate with Almonds plus a few extra almonds to make up the weight.  (Hazelnuts or Brazil Nuts would be equally as suitable and possibly walnuts, but not peanuts.)  It is essential that the loaf tin is properly lined with baking parchment as it is very inclined to stick.  This is a moist cake with a background coffee flavour with, providing the chocolate chunks are not too small, a concentrated taste of chocolate in some bites.  Mocha Fruit & Nut Cake is lovely with a cup of tea or coffee: delicious when still slightly warm, but much easier to cut when cold.  Perhaps I ought to re-visit the original recipe and try a version using apricots and prunes in place of the mixed fruit, nut and chocolate…

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

Mocha Fruit & Nut Cake

8ozs/225g Mixed Dried Fruit
8fl ozs/225ml strong cold black coffee (preferably freshly ground & Fairly Traded)
4ozs/115g Demerara or soft brown sugar
40zs/115g Milk Chocolate with nuts (100g bar plus a few extra of the same nuts)
or
30zs/85g Milk Chocolate & 1oz/30g nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, brazils) 40zs/115g in total
8ozs/225g Self Raising flour
1 egg

1.  Soak the fruit and sugar in the cold coffee, preferably overnight.

2.  Pre-heat oven to 170oC/325oF/Gas 3

3.  Line a 2lb loaf tin.

4.  Chop the chocolate and nuts into large pieces. (Cut each square of chocolate  into three or four pieces.  Nuts should be chopped into 2-4 pieces each – more for large nuts.)

5.  Mix the egg and the flour with the ingredients that have been soaking overnight and the chopped chocolate and nuts.

6.  Pour into the prepared tin.  Push down any pieces of chocolate that stand out from the cake mixture so they are hidden: this prevents the chocolate from burning.

7.  Bake for about 55 mins – 1 hour and turn out when cool.  Cool on wire tray.

Bran Brack – Irish Tea Bread
(this is the original recipe)

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Cherry cake is one of my favourites and this version where the cherries are combined with coconut is extra delicious.  I first made this cake many years ago but it took me a while to track down the instructions.  I could find plenty of recipes in my many books for cherry cake and for coconut cake but not one with them together.

I finally tracked down a recipe, which I am fairly sure is the same one as at some previous date I had written in an amendment.  It was in one of the first cookery books I owned: a Christmas present from my parents when I had asked for a book with lots of basic ‘how to cook’ information.  The book is a large volume, Perfect Cooking by Marguerite Patten.  The book is divided into sections and I have seen a copy of it in file version, which makes me think it could have been published as a ‘partwork’ with a new section to collect each week.  My copy, however, is properly bound.  As I have said, I did make amendments, in particular reducing the amount of sugar by one third (from 6ozs to 4ozs) and deciding that the mixture needed just a little milk.  The original recipe also suggested a row of cherry halves could be added on top of the cake, but I found that they sunk into the mixture as it cooked and it is simpler just to mix them in.  I usually add a crunchy top by sprinkling over a little extra sugar before cooking.  The original instructions were mixed by first rubbing the fat into the flour but I decided to use the more familiar creaming method, with no noticeable effect.  It is suggested that this would be also be good eaten warm as a dessert.

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

Cherry & Coconut Cake

60zs/170g self-raising flour (or plain flour and 2 level tsp baking powder)
4ozs/115g soft margerine
4ozs/115g caster sugar
2ozs/50g dessicated coconut
3ozs/85g glacé cherries
2 eggs
1tbsp milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  Line a 2lb loaf tin or 8″/20cm baking tin.

2.  Beat the fat and sugar together in a bowl until creamy.  Break the eggs into a small cup and beat in the beaten egg a little at a time.  

3.  Mix in the dessicated coconut.

4.  Chop the cherries into three or four pieces each.

5.  Sift the flour, placing the chopped cherries in the sieve at the same time.  This means they are coated with flour and helps prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake.

6.  Mix the floury cherries into the cake, then gently fold in the flour and finally stir in the milk. 

7.  Spoon into a prepared tin and level the top.  Sprinkle with a little extra sugar for a crunchy topping.  Bake for about 1 hour.

8.  Turn onto a rack to cool.  A skewer inserted into the centre of the baked cake should come out clean.

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A Vicarage can be a busy place and this cake has proved a really useful find which is rapidly becoming a favourite.  I find it such a quick and easy make that it is perfect for when I need to rustle up cake at short notice.  It reminds me of two of our favourites: a Lemon Drizzle Cake, but much less complicated, or a Marmalade Cake without the bitter orange flavour.  The first time I made this it came out of the oven at supper time so we all had a slice of warm cake with a piece of fruit for dessert – what more could you want! 

The recipe comes by courtesy of the Vicar’s Wife: not me but Amanda, a fellow clergy wife and vicarage based blogger.   She got it from another site (probably the Australian site Best Recipes, so I suppose that might make it an Australian recipe).  I am very grateful to her for converting the quantities into something I can understand as I share her nervousness of cups and their potential inaccuracy.  (I have given the original cup quantities below too).  This cake hardly needed any adaptation, though I did make sure that I cleaned the orange well with a little detergent and then rinsed it to remove any pesticide residue – or wax added to give it shine!  (I tend to buy my fruit on our local street market so it is rarely organic.)  The original version was topped with an orange juice and icing sugar mix but I reserved a little of the sugar to sprinkle on top to give the cake our usual favourite slightly crunchy topping.  This cake can also be made in a loaf tin.  I have been thinking about how I might make some variations on the theme and will post them here if successful, so watch this space!  (I was wondering about trying Lime, perhaps Lime & Chocolate Chip or Lemon, though this could be very similar to Lemon Drizzle cake.)

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

Whole Orange Cake

1 orange, including its skin
180g soft margerine or melted butter
3 eggs
1 cup/220g caster sugar (keep 2tbsp back for the crunchy topping)
1½ cups/210g self-raising flour

1.  Preheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  Line an 8″ cake tin. 

2.  Gently melt the margerine or butter either in a microwave proof bowl or in a saucepan on the stove top. 

3.  Meanwhile, thoroughly clean the orange with a very little detergent and rinse well.  Cut the orange into quarters and remove all the pips and the central core of white pith.  Place the orange in a blender, food processor or mini chopper and process until puréed. 

4.  Pour the melted margerine or butter and the puréed orange in a mixing bowl.  Stir in the remaining ingredients, remembering to reserve some sugar for the topping if required, until you have a rather sloppy batter.

5.  Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle over the reserved sugar. 

6.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until risen and golden brown.

7.  The original recipe had a very sweet topping made from a mixture of icing sugar, orange juice and zest and melted butter.

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A while ago a friend made a delicious cake which I think she called Cinnamon Streusel.  It was a cake batter with cinnamon flavour sugar swirled through the mixture which was then topped with drizzled glace icing – it may have had some nuts in as well.  I begged the recipe (of course!) but sadly it could not be found.  She thought it might have come from a Waitrose magazine or leaflet but I have been unable to track it down (any ideas on this gratefully received).  In spite of much searching drew a blank with finding a recipe that looked like the cake I ate.  One recipe I found, which was somewhat similar, was this variation on Banana Bread.  My usual recipe, to which I sometimes add walnuts, is OK but this sounded so much better.  The other plus is that it’s a great way of using up those soft bananas that have hung around in the fruit bowl a bit too long!

The original recipe, Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread, was a colleague’s recipe posted by Pippy on a message board back in 2005.  The recipe was in cups but I have converted it to metric and imperial.  I used four very ripe medium sized bananas (the unpeeled weight was just over 1lb).  For the crunchy texture I knew it would give to the topping, I substituted demerara in place of white sugar.  The finished article was dense and much more of a cake, so I changed the title.  The cinnamon sugar amount is rather generous and the sugar, but not the cinnamon, probably needs reducing, perhaps by a third.  For a less strong cinnamon flavour reduce the quantity of the spice in the topping mix.  This recipe gets positive feedback on the message board with one respondent renaming it ‘Cinnamon Smile Banana Bread’ because of the ‘U’ shape in the middle: as you can see mine is smiling too!

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

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Cake

3-4 over-ripe bananas, mashed (about 1lb, or just over, unpeeled weight)
100g/3½ozs melted butter
175g/6ozs white sugar
1 egg, beaten
1tsp vanilla extract
½tsp baking powder
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt (unless using salted butter)
230g/8oz plain flour
For the swirl
(this quantity is very generous – I reduce the sugar by ½-1oz, keep cinnamon the same):

100g/3oz demerara sugar
1 scant tbsp cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 170oC/325oF/Gas 3.   Butter and line a 2lb loaf tin.

2.  Mash the bananas and mix together with the melted butter, white sugar, egg, and vanilla.

3.  Sprinkle the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt onto the banana mixture and stir in.

4.  Gently fold in flour without over mixing.

5.  Mix the demerara sugar and cinnamon together.

6.  Spoon half of the cake mixture into the loaf pan.  Sprinkle over about half of the cinnamon sugar.  Spoon over the rest of the batter and finally sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar on top.

7.  Bake for 50-60 minutes until browned.

8.  The original recipe suggests the addition of extra ingredients such as milk or dark chocolate chips or chopped nuts at the same time as the flour.  Other ideas would be crystallised ginger chunks, glace cherries, dried dates or dried apricot.  I would certainly try it with walnuts which we always enjoyed when I made my original Banana Bread recipe.

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