I might have mentioned this before but my family doesn’t eat Christmas dinner (we have it on Christmas Eve instead) but we do enjoy a Christmas day brunch before the present opening begins. And this is the perfect recipe to kick off the big day. […]
Quick, delicious and impressive. Are there three better words to describe a dessert recipe? I don’t think there are. This recipe is so easy, you don’t even really have to weigh anything (doesn’t that sound good?). Buttery, crispy, flaky pastry wrapped around a filling of […]
What better Autumn teatime treat could there be than a slice of sweetly spiced loaf cake baked with butternut squash and sweet dried apricots?
This cake is deliciously moist (sorry, I don’t have another word for it!) and a little like a fruitier carrot cake. It’s got great texture and the rich creamy maple cream cheese frosting finishes it off beautifully. The recipe is really quick to throw together so you can have one of these baking in the oven in no time.
I’ve used oil rather than butter in this because at this end of the year it’s pretty much impossible to persuade butter to become room temperature in my kitchen, so oil makes for a nice easy shortcut!
100ml vegetable oil
40g maple syrup, something with plenty of flavour
pinch of salt
150g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
150g grated butternut squash
75g dried apricots, chopped
35g pistachios, roughly chopped
120g full fat cream cheese
50g icing sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
Pre-heat the oven to 180°c and grease and line a loaf tin. Beat together the oil, sugar, maple syrup and salt for a minute or two and then add the eggs. Beat until the mixture becomes a little foamy. Sift the flour, raising agents and spices into this mixture and then beat it again to leave you with a nice smooth batter. Briefly beat in the grated squash, chopped apricots and chopped pistachios before pouring the batter into the prepared tin. Bake the loaf for 50 minutes, covering the top with foil if it gets a little too brown.
Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes and then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the frosting by beating together the butter and cream cheese until they are well blended. Add the icing sugar and maple syrup and beat until you have a thick fluffy frosting. Spread this over the top of the cake and then pop it in the fridge to firm up a little before slicing.
Last weeks high winds seem to have brought down most of the remaining apples from the tree in my garden, at least the ones that our resident squirrel hasn’t already nibbled. He’s very picky and won’t touch them once they’ve hit the ground!
This is a great way of making sure that those windfalls don’t go to waste as you can simply cut away any bruised parts of the fruit. It’s also a great way of using a few of my home-grown chilis. I’m not sure what variety they are but they’re mighty fierce! This calms them down a lot and it’s a great condiment to serve with fish, seafood and cheese – I especially like it with Galician tetilla cheese and fresh bread.
This recipe is more about ratios than weights but I’ve included them as a guide anyway.
makes 2 jars
1.5 pints of water
500g of sugar for every 500ml of liquid
100ml cider vinegar
2-3 red and green chilis (deseeded if you don’t want it too hot!)
Wash the apples and roughly chop them, peel, cores and all. Place them in a large pan with the water, bring to the boil and then cook until the fruit becomes pulpy.
Strain the fruit through a jelly bag into a large clean bowl. Don’t squeeze the bag (as tempting as it might be) or you will make the jelly cloudy. I like to leave my fruit to strain overnight so that I can be sure I’ve got every last drop of liquid out of it. You can discard the remaining pulp.
Place a saucer in your freezer to chill so that you can test for setting point later. Add the vinegar to the juice and use 500g of sugar for every 500ml of liquid that you have. Combine them in a pan and let them bubble away for 20 minutes. Drop a teaspoon of the jam onto the chilled plate, leave it for a minute and then push your finger through it, if it wrinkles then you’ve reached setting point. If not then continue to cook the jam for a few minutes more and re-test it.
Once setting point has been reached remove the pan from the heat. Finely chop the chilis and divide them evenly between sterilised jars. Carefully pour the jam into the jars and leave to cool. You’ll need to stir the jam every now and then as it cools and sets in order to make sure that the chili is evenly distributed. Seal and label the jars and store in a dark place.
I’m almost certain that homemade bread is good for the soul. The process of making the dough, the smell as it bakes and that first taste when it’s fresh from oven – it really does make me feel good. I love making a batch of something like this to indulge in over long weekend breakfasts.
I know that cardamom buns are a speciality in Sweden, particularly for fika (that’s a coffee break to you and I) but the only place I’ve ever actually tried one was in London so I’m not even going to pretend that these are in any way authentic. In fact they’re so in-authentic that I’ve adapted my recipe for coconut buns, which uses a tang zhong (roux) in the dough, but they are incredibly delicious! It’s the roux that makes these buns so deliciously soft and moist. Make it by simply combining 25g of bread flour with 100ml of water in a pan and cooking it until it becomes nice and thick. Leave it to cool before incorporating it into the dough mixture.
400g strong white bread flour
big pinch of salt
2 tsp instant yeast (1 sachet)
70ml warm milk
70ml warm water
40g butter (melted)
100g softened butter
25-30 green cardamom pods
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pearl sugar to finish (optional)
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and whisk in the salt, sugar and yeast. In a separate jug whisk together the melted butter, milk, water, egg and the cooled roux. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the liquid mixture. Combine to form a soft dough and knead until it is smooth and springy. You can do this either by hand or with an electric mixer but to be honest the dough is so nice to work with that it’s very therapeutic to do it by hand.
Wash and dry the bowl to make it lovely and warm and then lightly oil it (use something flavourless.) Wipe a large piece of cling-film around the bowl to oil that too. Pop the dough into the bowl and loosely cover it with the cling-film and then leave it somewhere draught-free to rise until it has doubled in size, this should take about an hour.
Whilst the dough is doing its thing you can make the filling. Use a pestle and mortar to crack open the cardamom pods, remove the black seeds and discard the husks. Crush the seeds and coarsely grind them. Cream together the butter, sugar and spice to make a nice soft paste. Take the dough out of the bowl and pop it on a lightly floured surface. Give it a quick knead to knock some of the air out of it. Divide it into two even pieces. Roll each one out into a rectangle, about 14″x 10″. With the long edge facing you spread the filling over the lower half of each piece of dough before folding the top down to cover it. Press the edges to seal it and give it another quick roll. Cut each rectangle into six even pieces, slicing from top to bottom, then take each piece and cut it in half vertically stopping just short of the top so that the two strips remain joined. Twist the strips around each other and then into a knot, tucking the ends underneath. Place them on a lightly greased baking tray, spacing them well apart. I used two trays and put six on each. Lightly cover the buns and leave them to rise again for another hour.
Pre-heat your oven to 180°c. Once the buns have puffed up and risen, uncover them and brush them with a little milk before sprinkling on some pearled sugar (or Demerara) and bake them for 20-25 minutes, until they have a soft crust and are golden brown.