Archive | July, 2012

Apricot upside down cake

23 Jul

When life gives you apricots, you should just eat them. But when you still have more apricots than you know what to do with a week later, and they are in danger of going off, you should make cake with them.

A soft, caramelly number would be perfect. Perhaps with some ground almonds to give a hint of marzipan and add extra moistness.

And if it was served with vanilla ice cream it would be just about perfect.

So, that’s what I intended to do yesterday, with some urgency once I discovered that the Captain’s daughter was coming over for lunch with her 2 year old daughter too. But we had no butter. So the Captain was instructed to get a pack of butter when he picked up the papers. And it had to be real butter, not some spread masquerading as butter.

He returned with a plastic tub, which did not bode well. But he proclaimed that it was Lurpak, so it had to be ok. It was Lurpak Spreadable, in my mind not quite the same as butter. And when I looked at the ingredient list, it was clear it wasn’t actually butter – it is only 69% butter, with 25% vegetable oil. That’s what makes it spreadable, adding a product which is liquid at room temperature.

However, on closer inspection it said that it could be used in baking, so I gave it (and the Captain) the benefit of the doubt.

Upside down apricots in a cake

For the upside downy bit:

  • Some apricots – at least 6, preferably about a dozen, Or of course you could substitute all manner of other fruit – pineapple, peach, apples, cherries would all be nice
  • About 2oz Lurpak spreadable, or softened butter
  • About 2oz soft light brown sugar

For the cake mix:

  • 6oz Lurpak spreadable (or use softened butter)
  • 6oz soft light brown sugar
  • 3 medium free range eggs
  • 5oz SR flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2oz ground almonds
  • A splosh of almond extract (optional)

Butter the sides of an 8” square cake tin. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5.

  1. Beat together the 2oz sugar and ‘butter’ until nice and soft and spreadable
  2. Spread this mixture on the base of the cake tin, in an even layer
  3. Cut the apricots in half and place them cut side down on top of the sugar-butter mixture
  4. Beat together the remaining butter and sugar
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, then beat in the almond extract
  6. Mix the flour, baking powder and ground almonds in a bowl and then add to the buttery mixture, and beat all together
  7. Dollop the cake mixture into the tin, on top of the apricots, and spread it into the corners. Ideally, create a small well in the middle, which will keep the cake from rising too much in the middle.
  8. Place the cake tin on a baking sheet, in case some of the caramel overflows. Bake for around 30 minutes, or until the centre of the cake feels firm, and no longer wobbly. You may need to cover the cake with a tin foil hat for the last 10 minutes or so, if it looks like it is getting too brown (burnt).
  9. Leave to cool for 10 minutes or so in the tin. To turn the cake out slide a palette knife around the edge of the tin, to loosen the cake from the sides, then place a plate on top of the tin and carefully, but swiftly, turn it over so the tin is now on top of the plate. If you’ve buttered the tin properly it will glide out. If not, you’ll be having jigsaw cake with the bits all vaguely squidged back together. It’ll still taste nice though.

If you’ve managed to plan your day well, then this will be delicious served warm with some thick greek yoghurt, or crème fraiche. Or the aforementioned vanilla icecream.

And who knew? Substituting butter for Lurpak spreadable works perfectly well – this cake was more moist and much lighter than I expected (perhaps also due to the addition of baking powder). The flavour of butter and caramel was strong enough to come through the dominant almond-ness, but as a fan of marzipan that really worked for me. And the apricots? Well, they looked great, and the sliver of soft fruit melted in the mouth and eased my conscience, contributing towards my five a day.

All in all, a success.

Pomegranate – middle eastern street food

18 Jul

I like eating out. In fact I love eating out. OK, I just love eating. But there’s something really great about eating something that someone else has made for you. And if you’re going to eat out, you might as well eat something you wouldn’t be likely to eat at home.

And of course, as I work in the Arts, I’m generally looking for somewhere that is reasonably priced, and if it’s BYO with no corkage even better.

So, when Pomegranate opened recently it was only a matter of time before I sampled what it has to offer.

And what an offering!

We opted for the Mezze Special – your choice of 6 different mezze dishes and naan for £27.

Deciding on only 6 dishes was the challenge, but we went for:

Baba Ganoush: smooth and smoky smooshed up aubergine, with tahini and garlic. Perfect for dipping scraps of naan into.

Green Olive Salad: more perfect flavour combinations – green olives cut up fine, with a few wee nibs of walnut and lots of garlicky olive oil

Fatoush: I’m really fond of this fresh flavoursome salad. I used to make it with great big chunks of pitta bread, but this was a much more delicate affair – the usual lettuce, tomato and cucumber, but with teeny cubes of pitta croutons and the zingiest lemony dressing

Baly Merishke: Barbecued chicken wings sprinkled with a spicy, zesty mix. Perfect finger food

Bayengaan: baby aubergines, baked and stuffed with spiced rice. All soft and unctuous and meltingly sweet

Halloumi: Grilled squeaky cheese on a salad of lettuce, tomato and olives. Those flavours were no surprise, but the fresh minty dressing wasn’t expected, but will be copied at home now I’ve tried it.

And a basket of naan. But not naan like I know them, they were light crispy flatbreads, which were far more than simply a method of delivering the baba ganoush and green olive salad.

This array of textures and flavours should be enough to tempt you. But if not, think about a relaxed restaurant with fresh modern decor, friendly, efficient staff and your choice of wine. You can bring your own bottle, and you won’t be charged corkage. We had a fruity granache, which held its own with the strong middle eastern flavours.

 

Beetroot and orange salad

10 Jul

I mentioned this treat the other day, in my post about my Scottish tapas style meal.

When I was wee the only beetroots I’d ever come across were in a jar, and covered in vinegar. Some were even crinkle cut (presumably to make sure they soaked up as much of that vinegar as possible). Now I’m sure there’s a place for pickled beetroot, but those overwhelmingly sharp wee purple nuggins gave me quite the wrong impression of what beetroot is all about.

And so I didn’t try beetroot again for years. In fact probably not until I was in my 40s, when I was tricked into buying some fresh beetroot by the sheer exuberance and joy in the bounty of a farm shop one day. Into the wicker basket went locally grown carrots, courgettes, tomatoes, strawberries and cauliflower. Pears were placed on top, so as not to bruise them. And a bunch of herbs (this was in the days when I didn’t have my own established herb patch). And then there they were – bunches of beetroot, grubby with soil and with their tops on, looking as though they had just been plucked from the garden minutes before (I now know that if you leave the tops on beetroots for any length of time, they start to suck out the nutrients from the roots, and while the tops are wilting, they are also depleting the goodness from the bulbs).

There are so many things to do with beetroot, from the frankly outrageously delicious chocolate beetroot cake (think pimped up carrot cake) to simply roasted with a blob of sour cream. Or make a quick tart with goats cheese and beetroot grated into a horseradish creme fraiche on whatever pastry you have to hand, filo, puff or shortcrust. The earthy flavour marries well with horseradish or with balsamic vinegar and beetroot is of course the ideal companion to game or smoked fish, It’s a strong vegetable and not just in colour.

But one of my simple beetroot salads just combines it with shallots, oranges, balsamic vinegar and dill. And lots of black pepper… but then I’m a bit of a pepper addict. The dark purple and bright orange of this salad will make you smile even before you’ve popped it in your mouth.

If you’re starting with raw fresh beetroot, this isn’t the salad to start making ten minutes before you sit down to lunch. However, for speed and convenience, you can make this with pre-cooked vacuum packed beetroot – get the stuff that doesn’t have any vinegar in it though. It won’t be quite as nice, but still pretty good.

Beetroot and orange salad

  • a bunch of fresh beetroot bulbs – their size is immaterial, and you can just vary the quantity of everything else to match how much beetroot you have
  • shallots – probably one medium shallot for every 2 medium beetroot
  • oranges – one whole large orange for every 2 medium beetroot
  • fresh dill – about 1TBsp of chopped up dill for every medium beetroot
  • balsamic vinegar – a good old glug of it
  • olive oil – not much, in fact it doesn’t really need it at all
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Maldon sea salt
  1. Cook your beetroot. You might already have a preferred method, but if you don’t then I would recommend you cut off the leafy tops about 0.5cm above the root, then wrap the roots all together in kitchen foil and pop them in a medium oven until they are done. If they are small and you don’t have many of them they’ll take less than an hour, but if you have anything bigger then teeny weeny roots then you’re looking at a couple of hours in the oven to ensure they are cooked. To check they are cooked, unwrap them (carefully) and insert the tip of a sharp knife into the largest one – if it meets no resistance it is cooked. The alternative is to boil them in a big pan of water.
  2. Once the beetroot is cooked let it cool for a while so they are cool enough to handle. With a wee bit of pressure, the skin will slough off and you are left with wee naked purple balls of beetrooty tastiness. 
  3. Chop the beetroot into wee cubes and put in a bowl
  4. Add segments of orange – you don’t want any pith or skin on the segments so take a large orange and a very sharp wee knife and slice off the top and the bottom of the orange. Sit the orange on its bottom, and slice off the pith and skin in big slices all the way round the orange, cutting sections off at a time, from top to bottom – you’ll get the hang of it. Once you have a wee naked orange, hold it over the bowl with the beetroot, so you catch the juicy drips. Using the knife, cut out a segment – you need to cut alongside the natural segment ‘skin’ so you get perfect wee skin free segments of orange. Again, you’ll get the hang of it, but perhaps not on the first orange. Once you’ve released all the segments into the bowl, squeeze the remainders of the orange to capture all the juice in the bowl. 
  5. Now finely chop your shallot and add it to the bowl
  6. And finely chop the dill and mix it in too
  7. Glug in some balsamic vinegar, and wee splash of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper
  8. Taste to see if it needs more balsamic or pepper
Serve, preferably with some sourdough bread, to mop up those juices and smoked trout. And lots of other wee bowls of tasty things to pick and choose from.

Sweet scones for Wimbledon

8 Jul

So, rain delayed play in the Federer v Murray final this afternoon. And I decided it was probably a good time to make some scones, so there would be scones and strawberry jam with a nice cup of Earl Grey tea to help us get through to the end of the game.

Apologies that this is partially metric and partially old school. But it’s just how it is.

Sweet scones

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 2oz cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 130ml milk
  • another egg and a slurp of milk to make an eggwash
  • a couple of TBsps granulated sugar
Preheat oven to Gas Mark 9, or as hot as you can get in whatever oven you own
  1. Sift the flour and baking powder together in a nice big wide bowl
  2. Cut the cold butter into it, in wee chunks
  3. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour till it resembles sand. As you rub in the butter lift the mixture up high, and let it fall through your fingers, getting lots of air into the mixture
  4. Now make a well in the centre of the mixture
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and the milk, then pour the combined mixture into the well 
  6. Now you’re going to get your hands dirty. Make your fingers ‘stiff’ so your hand is like a wee shovel and use your hand to quickly mix all the ingredients together
  7. Once they are all combined stop mixing and go and wash and dry your hands
  8. Sprinkle flour on a board, and tip out the scone dough
  9. With your hands bring the dough together into a neat round, about 1.5″ thick
  10. Use a cutter to cut into rounds and set aside
  11. Whisk together the egg and milk for the egg wash and put the sugar in a bowl
  12. Brush the eggwash on each scone and then dip their tops into the sugar to give them a scrunchy sugary top
  13. Place spaced a wee bit apart on a baking sheet 
  14. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes
Eat warm with butter and homemade strawberry jam. Or that tasty gooseberry and elderflower jam I made last weekend… Or clotted cream and blackcurrant jelly. Or rhubarb compote with whisked cream. Or perhaps some lemon curd and a mini scoop of vanilla icecream.
And if you don’t eat them all straight way then pop them in the freezer. They’ll only need about 20 – 40seconds in the microwave to defrost and reheat them. Delumptious.

Scottish Tapas

8 Jul

My favourite sort of lunch at home is what my Mum would call ‘little bowls of this and that’. The rest of us call it a Wolffe Lunch. The table groans with plates of this and bowls of that, with things to nibble and with salads you want to pile onto your plate. The worry is always that the thing you’ve got your eye on will be passed round the table the OTHER WAY and there will be hardly any left by the time it gets to you. No need to worry though, there is always plenty.

I’ve adapted the Wolffe Lunch, of course. And this weekend it has included homemade baps, beetroot and orange salad, warm chilli sweetcorn fritters, prawns in chilli lime dressing, tabbouleh (with fresh herbs from the garden), a cheese board, dressed crab, homemade mayonnaise, salad leaves from the garden, and cucumber from the greenhouse. I never knew that cucumbers tasted like that, always thought they were like watered down versions of a flavour – but this was sweet and aromatic in a most surprising way.

So, what do you want first? The fritters? OK then, here we go.

The chilli sweetcorn fritters were entirely inspired by finding a half can of sweetcorn in the fridge. And the purchase of this month’s Olive magazine.

Chilli sweetcorn fritters with prawns

  • 100g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 duck egg or 1 egg, plus a yolk
  • 80ml milk
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped nice and fine
  • 100g or so of sweetcorn (about half a small tin)
  • sunflower or rapeseed oil for frying
  • 200g prawns
  • 1 red chilli, sliced fine
  • spring onions, sliced fine
  • juice of 1 lime and lime wedges to serve
  1. Put the prawns in a bowl, and sprinkle over the chilli, the spring onion slices and the lime juice. Set aside while you make the fritters
  2. Sift the flour, soda and a pinch of salt into a big bowl
  3. Make a well in the centre and add the egg, yolk and milk
  4. Beat with a wooden spoon, or balloon whisk till you have a smooth and thick batter
  5. Add the sweetcorn and chilli
  6. Heat oil in a frying pan on a medium heat
  7. Spoon tablespoons of batter into the pan and fry for a minute or so till you see bubbles on the surface. Turn over and cook for another minute or so, till golden, puffed and cooked through
  8. Drain on kitchen paper.
You’ll probably want to serve these while they’re still warm, so think about that before you get started… just make sure everything else is ready to go before you start frying. The batter can be made and left for a wee bit before you fry.
They’d probably be tasty with a choice of dips – salsa, hummus, cream cheese and chives. I’d also like it with mango salsa I was introduced to by the inimitable John Murphy. John is someone very special – he’s a philosopher, a therapist, an alcoholic and a cattle rustler (ex). And so much more.
That Mango Salsa
Cut up a mango into chunks. Add a clove of garlic, chopped up fine (or smooshed if you prefer it that way), a sliced up red or green chilli and the juice of 1 lime.
Eat immediately if you want, but it’ll be much nicer if you can bear to leave it for 24hours. The other things in your fridge might not thank you though.
Oh, and don’t even think about making these fritters if you’re on a diet. Unless of course you think you can limit yourself to just the one. Which you can’t. Trust me.
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