Ginger Cake

Anna May everyday ginger cake sliced

This cake has been to the beach (several times), to the cricket and to London.  Not the same cake of course, what I mean is that I make it often as it is always goes down well and travels happily (useful when it is hot and sunny).  It is heady and spicy with the ginger, rich and slightly damp (in a good way) and keeps well.  At least I think it keeps well, it never has the chance with us.  Children love it despite (or because of ) the gingery heat and the current record holder is George with 4 slices in one sitting.

To make it is the matter of minutes, some melting, weighing and mixing and then it sits happily in the oven for an hour.  This is the cake I mentioned in Summer Lunch (Part 1) as it is perfect for a picnic.  However,  should the weather disappoint it makes a fabulous pudding and, with the addition of a quick butterscotch sauce and some vanilla ice cream becomes the thing of dreams.

Anna May everyday Ginger cake whole

Ginger Cake

110g butter

110g brown sugar

110g golden syrup

1 egg

Pinch of salt

175g plain flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

150ml milk

Preheat the oven to 140 and line a loaf tin with baking parchment.  Melt the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup in a small pan.  Measure the flour, cinnamon and ginger into a large bowl.  Add the butter mixture to the flour and beat well until combined and put the milk into the pan to warm. Beat the egg into the mixture then put the bicarb into the warmed milk and then add this to the batter.  It will seem rather liquid but don’t be alarmed.  Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for an hour or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Leave to cool.

Anna May everyday Gingier cake Minty 1

 

 

Fresh Herb Sauce

Anna May everyday Iced tea Grenita-3

I cannot rave enough about this sauce – it is simply beyond useful and thoroughly delicious.

We have it with grilled or roast chicken and I wouldn’t contemplate a barbecue without it.  Smoky charred chicken wrapped in a soft flatbread with this fresh herby sauce is a lunch supreme (see Summer Lunch Part 1 last week).  With roast lamb I add mint to the parsley base and it becomes a modern twist on a traditional mint sauce.  With some marjoram or oregano and a pinch of chilli flakes it is the perfect accompaniment to a steak which makes sense as it is a simplified version of an Argentinian chimmichurri.

You can fiddle around with the ingredients to suit your taste, change the herbs as suggested above, add more garlic (or less), substitute lemon juice for the vinegar if you prefer.  Really it  is up to you, the only thing I would urge is that you try it.

Green Herb Sauce

1 bunch parsley (around 30-40 grams)

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

1 pinch of salt

1 pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)

Put all the ingredients into a jug and blend with a hand held blender.  Alternatively blend in a liquidiser.  Taste and adjust, you may need a splash more vinegar or a pinch more salt or sugar.  Enough for 4.

 

Iced Tea Granita

Anna May everyday Iced tea Grenita-2

 

It is not a secret that I love a granita – they are easy to make, refreshing and delicious.  My first foray into granitas was a gin and tonic version which was an absolute belter to serve after a curry.  You may remember my blood orange granita earlier this year which was just fabulous, the citrus  flavour singing out and the colour simply beautiful.  Seasonal that one though, which is both good news and bad.

This granita however you can enjoy any time of the year.  Iced tea is something I rarely drink here but have enjoyed in America where it is on most menus.  I rustled up this granita one day and entered it into one of Food52’s weekly recipe competitions (www.food52.com).  Well, blow me down, not only was it selected as one of the Community Picks in iced deserts which is a great honour, it has also been viewed over 1,000 times.  Woo hoo I think the expression is.

All this excitement aside, it is a great pud on a hot day and one you can make a couple of days ahead and keep in the freezer.  I am willing to bet you will have the ingredients anyway and if not it is cheap as chips to make.  Serve in little glasses, the glorious amber crystals deserve to be shown off.

Iced Tea Granita

I use Yorkshire Tea for this as it is my every day tea (being a Yorkshire lass).  The flavour and balance is spot on and makes this granita exactly how I like it.

250ml freshly made tea, cooled

2 tablespoons lemon juice

40g caster sugar

Dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice over a low heat then mix with the tea.  Strain into a shallow container with a lid.  Freeze for 3 hours and then mix well,  breaking up the frozen crystals around the edges and mixing them with the slushy centre.   Freeze for an additional 2 hours and then mix again.  Repeat.  When ready to serve, scratch up the granita with a fork and serve in small glasses.  If you have made this ahead and it has frozen solid take it out of the freezer about 30 minutes before you want to serve.  This would do 4 small glasses but can easily be doubled.

Note – if you want to make an orange version similar to the Blood Orange Granita (February 2012) I would use ordinary oranges and add the juice of a lime for that extra zing.

Summer Lunch, home or away (Part 1)

Anna May everyday kebab lunch

So, here we go, the season for eating outside, barbecues and picnics is upon us.  If the  weather would oblige that is.  We need things to eat that work inside, cooked in the garden or taken on a picnic without having to completely revise the menu or shopping list if the weather turns against us.  Here’s what we have.

First, lovely juicy chicken kebabs which can be grilled or griddled at home or barbequed outside.  A bulghar wheat and roasted veg salad with a punchy dressing is easily transported in a tub and put into pitas, wraps or rolls along with chicken, some herby green sauce and garlicky  yogurt.  Then, a sticky ginger cake is easy to take out and about or can be transformed at home into a glorious rich pudding with the addition of a quick butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Anna May everyday kebab plate

I would marinade the chicken on Friday when the nippers are at school (it is the work of minutes), make the cake and roast the vegetables for the salad then too.  On Saturday make the flatbreads if you are homebound and have time on your hands and children to entertain or buy wraps and get on out there.

The above is not a lot to transport but along with some chilled grapes and drinks for the children and icy cold wine for you makes an absolute feast.

Chicken Kebabs

4 Chicken breasts, skin off and cubed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 lemons juiced

3 cloves garlic crushed

Sprig of rosemary and/or thyme

Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

Give everything a good mix and put in a bag, I use those ziplock ones, or a bowl and cover with cling film.  Put it in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.  Thread onto skewers (remember to soak them if they are wood so they don’t catch fire) and then cook on your barbecue or under the grill until cooked through.  Season with salt then wrap in a flat bread or put in a pitta, add the sauces suggested below and tuck in.

To serve, flatbreads or pitta, garlicky yogurt (see Lamb Meatballs October 2012), rocket, fresh herbs (we like marjoram/oregano and mint), fresh herb sauce (recipe to follow) and chilli sauce, phew.

Anna May everyday Minty ginger cake

Here is the Ginger Cake out and about, I will post the recipe later in the week.

 

Lemonade

Anna May everyday lemonade

The sun is out, the day is warming up and the children are running around.  Very soon there will be calls for drinks, something cool, quenching and refreshing.

So out with the lemons.  I try and eat what is in season but lemons for me are an all year rounder.  We don’t grow them here and as I could not imagine cooking without them I simply buy and thank the warmer climes where they flourish.  Their lemony fragrant zip brings life to so many dishes, sometimes a few drops can literally transform the flavour of food in the way a few crystals of salt can.  Lemons are equally at home in savoury and sweet and I rarely go a day without the squeezing of one.

With very little work and a brief simmer on the hob you will be in possession of this sharp, tangy sweet cordial.  Sometimes I add a chunk of peeled ginger when this is heating, sometimes I don’t and occasionally add a bruised mint leaf or two on serving.

We get through masses of this in the summer and it even won me a first at last years Horticultural Show.  That aside it is the perfect refresher on a hot day and ideal for a picnic.  Take the cordial in a small bottle or jar and dilute just before you drink with icy cold sparkling water.

Lemonade

4 lemons juiced and the peel of 1

200g sugar

125 ml water

Put the sugar, water and lemon peel into a pan and heat.  Let it simmer for 10 minutes and then add the lemon juice.  Bring back to the boil then take off the heat and leave to cool.  Strain into a suitable bottle or jam jar.  I dilute this one part cordial to three parts cold sparkling water.

Note – lime juice is delicious combined with the lemon juice but I only heat lemon peel, when I tried heating the lime peel it gave the cordial a weird taste.

 

Raspberry and Lemon Tarts

Anna May everyday raspberry tarts1

I never used to have a sweet tooth (or should that be teeth) but now I do.  Savoury was always more my thing, starters not puddings or crisps, cheese and a glass of wine to be entirely honest – I could make a packet of chocolate buttons last at least a week.  Since I have had children however, I adore cakes, chocolates and puddings like never before.  My father loved a pud and my son doesn’t think a meal is complete without one so it must be hereditary!  These little tarts came about because a) something sweet was required and b) the wherewithal (half a pack of pastry and half a jar of lemon curd) was in the fridge and needed using up.

These are as easy or as hard as you want to make them really.   With (really good) bought pastry shells or pastry and lemon curd they are fabulous.  If you make your own sweet pastry and use some home made lemon curd then they will sing out even further.  I am happy to take either route but in truth am more likely to make pastry than lemon curd – you must do as you please.

However you get there, sweet crisp pastry filled with a smooth lemon filling and topped neatly or tumbled with raspberries is a thing of beauty.   Having made these little ones I also had a go at a larger tart which was just as delicious but somehow it is the baby ones which win my heart.  So, a really easy summery pudding and one which I’m sure will garner you many ooh’s and aah’s.  By the way, should you come across some passion fruit curd, grab it and make these, it is a sublime combination.

Anna May everyday raspberry tarts3

Because this was a case of using up leftovers my recipe is annoyingly unspecific – what I used was half a pack of sweet pastry which I rolled and cut out, baked blind for 10 minutes at 180 and then for a further 5 minutes without the baking beans.  I mixed half a jar of lemon curd with half a tub of marscapone, put a blob in each cooled pastry shell and topped with raspberries.

 

One-Ingredient-June-Rasberries-300x181

 

This recipe is entered One Ingredient June 2013 hosted by Franglais Kitchen and How to Cook Good Food and Simple and in Season hosted by Ren Behan.

Anzac Biscuits

Anna May everyday anzac 11

My daughter spends much of her time dressed as an evacuee.  You know, shorts, tank top, luggage label, that sort of thing – her fascination with all things to do with WW2 knows no bounds and she is often keen for me to cook accordingly.  Woolton Pie, Murkey (mock turkey for Christmas) have all been requested but met, I must admit, with a little reluctance by me.  These biscuits however, get the full thumbs up or should that be V for victory.

I’m sure you know the reason for the name, Australian and New Zealand Army Corp biscuits, made without egg so they wouldn’t go off too quickly when sent to the soldiers at the front.  Originally from WW1 I know but let’s not be picky.

The main ingredients being oats allow me to put these into the category of healthy treat.  I have also pared down the sugar as much as possible – yes, yes I know a biscuit is by its very nature sweet but I like to keep these things to a minimum where possible so you can enjoy them without guilt, ie have two.

Anzac Biscuits

100g plain flour

100g desiccated coconut

150g porridge oats

100g butter

85g soft brown sugar

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons golden syrup

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 tablespoons boiling water

Preheat the oven to 180/160 fan and line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix the flour, coconut, oats and salt in a large bowl.  In a small pan melt the butter, golden syrup and brown sugar.  It is easiest to dip your tablespoon into hot water so the syrup slides off.  Mix the bicarb with the boiling water and then add to the pan, it will whoosh up a bit, give it a stir and then add to the bowl with the dry ingredients.

Drop tablespoonfuls of mixture onto the baking sheets and put in the oven for 10-15 minutes, check after 10 they are done when a dark gold colour.  Cool for a minute or two before transferring to a rack.  This will make about 30 biscuits.

 

 

365 things to eat

Anna May everyday chorizo and chickpea stew

I don’t mean all at once obviously, but if you think about it, each year we have to think of more or less 365 things to eat and that is just for supper.  Start adding lunches and children’s teas and the number becomes enormous.  No wonder many of us resort to the same old favourites evening after evening.  Nothing wrong with that at all, indeed I look forward to something tried and tested which I know will please tummy and soul – like seeing an old friend, no disappointing surprises and a good evening all round.  That said though, I do try new things, feel almost compelled to.  Whether to justify the library of cookbooks, magazines and cuttings I have or inspired by something I have seen in the farm shop, I try to extend my repertoire by at least one new thing a week.

So continuing on my quest for straightforward, delicious everyday things to eat that won’t take hours to make or cost a fortune and are both easy and appealing (hopefully) for all the family, what about chorizo and chickpea stew.  I hope it might make your list of regulars and here is why.  Using mainly storecupboard ingredients which are transformed into a rich, spicy comforting dish with very little effort on your part.  A bit of chopping, open a couple of cans and then let the stovetop perform a little alchemy.  What a treat.  I have been cooking this for many many years.  Of course, as is my wont I have tinkered with the recipe from time to time but this is my favourite version.  It is an easy and delicious supper (or lunch) and one that when I serve it, my daughter eyes the pot anxiously for seconds.

It is equally at home as a winter warmer or a sprightly spiced supper for cooler summer evenings.  Whatever the weather, whichever month you are in, please give it a go, I have never known it not please.

Chorizo and chickpea stew

Chorizo, cooking sausages, around 150g

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tin chickpeas, drained

1 glass white wine or dry sherry

1/2 bunch of parsley, chopped

Cut the chorizo into rounds and fry gently in a medium size pan until it renders its oil in which you now fry the onion until soft.  Add the garlic and paprika, stir for a minute or two and then add the tomatoes, chickpeas and wine or sherry.  Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  You can serve this is as it is or if you like a slightly thicker sauce,  squidge some of the chickpeas against the side of the casserole until they fall apart.  Season well with salt, give it another stir and then sprinkle over the parsley.  This doesn’t really need anything with it but a sliced crusty baguette works a treat as does a simple green salad.  Serves 2 but easily doubled.

Anna May everyday Chorizo in pan

 

Claypot Chicken

Anna May everyday claypot ingredients2

You know that feeling at the end of the day – the one when all you are fit for is the sofa.  Ideally with a glass of wine in one hand and the other held out expectantly for a plate of food which someone else has cooked to be placed in it.  I regularly feel like that and I am sure I am not the only one.  Much as I love cooking and I do, I really do, there are times when I feel like I can’t be bothered.  Invariably at the tired end of the day, possibly after a difference of opinion with one of my children, the house refusing to clean itself or the dog taking himself on a long unscheduled walk and having to be found.

These are the evenings when you need this recipe – easy, quick and totally restoring,  Never mind my top 10 or top 5, this one is firmly on the podium in the top 3.

I must point out one thing, which you may have spotted already, it is not a looker.  As they say though, never judge a book by its cover and in culinary terms, this is that book.  I’ve tried prettying it up, sprinkling it with this or that but it doesn’t work.  Moreover it would be missing the point.  This recipe is beyond simple, uses very few ingredients and is cheap.  To zhuzz it up just for the sake of the photograph would be wrong.

I gave the recipe to one of my brothers ages ago and kept asking him if he had made it.  I guessed not because I hadn’t heard the rapturous applause.  Eventually (after some badgering from me I must admit) he cooked it for this wife – he says they  now have it once a week.  So do we, it really is that good.

So please take my word (and my brothers, and my husbands) for it and try this.

Anna May everyday claypot chicken

Claypot Chicken

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, chopped

1 thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

4 chicken thigh fillets, each cut into 6 pieces

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon soft brown sugar

4 tablespoons basmati rice

250ml chicken stock

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and gently soften the onion.  Add the garlic and ginger and stir for a couple of minutes.  Put the rice, brown sugar and fish sauce into the pan, give it all a good stir followed by the chicken and the stock.  Simmer gently for about 12-15 minutes until the rice and chicken are cooked.  This is enough for two adults (although I think I could probably eat it all myself).  Serve with a drop or two of chilli sauce if you like.

 

 

Ham hock, parsley and lentil salad

Anna May everyday ham hock salad

I have to admit to a little scepticism about lentils in my youth and am ashamed to say thought they were only for those who might also knit their own sheep’s milk yogurt.  How wrong I was and I can remember the lentils that won my heart all those years ago.  Following a birthday treat to the theatre (Miss Saigon) we went to a French restaurant in the West End.  One of the starters was lentils with little bits of bacon and a creamy vinaigrette.  I don’t know why I was led to this choice but I was and it was heavenly.  Now my larder wouldn’t be without these useful pulses and while the Sausages and Lentils (April 2013) may be a little cold weather number, this salad is perfect whatever the season.

I confess I haven’t been simmering any hocks for my shredded ham.  If I had it would have been perfect for a pea and ham soup or risotto and you should keep the stock if you find yourself cooking said cut.  No, so determined am I that spring is imminent that I have put away such warming and comforting types of soup.  I bought this ham hock at Waitrose and it is very good.

This is a little more substantial than the summery lettuce salads which await us but has a suitable zip from the lemon and mustard in the dressing and verdant pep from the parsley which is more an ingredient than simply a garnish.

Ham hock, parsley and lentil salad

100g puy lentils

180-200g ham hock, shredded

20g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped or torn

2 spring onions, chopped

Handful of rocket

Juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Pinch of sugar

Cook the lentils in boiling water, they will take about 10-15 minutes but check as they do vary.  Once cooked drain and leave to cool.  In a medium size bowl mix the mustard, sugar and lemon juice and then add the olive oil slowly, taste and season.  Put the lentils, ham hock, spring onions, parsley and rocket into the bowl with the dressing and give it a good mix.  Turn onto a serving plate.  This would do 2 adults for lunch with some nice bread alongside.

Anna May everyday ham hock salad ingredients