Marble Cake

Marble cake slice 2

I have felt a little caked-out recently following my Macmillan coffee morning but it is a dreary rainy October day in Dorset so there is only one thing to do – bake.  I make no secret of my fondness for a well stocked cake tin (Lemon Cake and the 1970’s, May 2013),  perhaps because when I was young a slice of cake was a proper treat.  It still is actually and ideally a weekly one and not something just for high days and holidays.

I may be sporting my rose coloured specs, the ones I usually view the 70’s with (blazing hot summers and superb music, forgetting strikes and power cuts etc) but I’m sure cakes were always homemade and whipped out triumphantly for weekends tea.  The only bought ones I can remember were something called a Country Manor Cake, a sort of light fruit cake with a demerara sugar topping which I was strangely fond of and the fabulous fluorescent Battenburg which enthralled me with its colours and the marzipan which I would peel off.

A marble cake was often the star at these teas and it seemed somehow exciting and exotic, what with its different flavours and swirls.  Many (many) years on I decided to make a marble cake and was delighted that my children were just as excited by the pattern and having both chocolate and vanilla flavours in one cake.   So much so that my son requested a marble cake, and it absolutely had to be a marble cake, last week when he had a friend from school over for tea.

You will see from the photographs that my marbling and swirling isn’t brilliant, artistry in cakes not one of my strengths and I doubt I will be troubling Paul and Mary any time soon.  The pictures are also the best I can do on a grey overcast day but I hope they convey the lovely texture of this easy and delicious cake.  Please, please do make it.

Marble Cake close 2

Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake

I use both milk and plain chocolate for the icing, all milk I find too sweet and all plain my children find too dark.  The mix of the two seems just right but as ever, adjust to your own tastes.

200g caster sugar

200g butter, soft

3 eggs

200g self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

25g cocoa

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons milk

For the icing

100g chocolate, milk or plain as you prefer, see introduction

20g butter

1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 170 and grease a 20cm tin which is at least 6-8cm deep.  Whizz the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time each with a spoonful of flour.  Once these are incorporated sift in the reminder of the flour along with the baking powder and salt then add the milk and vanilla.  Put half the mixture into another bowl and sift the cocoa into one lot, mix well.  Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the prepared tin alternating vanilla and chocolate.  Run a skewer through the blobs marbling as you go and then bake for 55 minutes.  Check after 45 in case it is browning too much on top in which case lay a piece of foil over it.  When a skewer comes out clean leave to cool and then remove from the tin.

For the icing, melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water then add the milk until you get the consistency you are after for the icing, I find one tablespoon is usually enough.  Pour over the cake and dig in.

Marble cake whole

Kale, Lentil and Bacon soup

 

Kale and Lentil soup

Don’t call me a swot but I just love vegetables.  More so than fruit I think and this time of year brings an amazing vibrant selection.  Beautiful and delicious, pretty as a picture and so good to eat.  My vegetable garden is coming to the end of its growing season and just has a few courgettes and late runner beans on offer, but no matter, my wonderful farm shop down the road (Washingpool Farm Shop, near Bridport) is full of earthy seasonal treasures.

So far this week we’ve had Celeriac and Spinach soup, Beetroot and Parsley soup with a little horseradish cream and Cauliflower Cheese.   Ahh, Cauliflower Cheese, shockingly overcooked and watery at school but a thing of pure delight when done well.  Whether you go for a proper béchamel with cheese or the quick creme fraiche with grated cheese route, I love this supper.

IMG_1702

Looking back at what we were eating last time it was chilly I found the Late Autumn Salad (November 2012) with earthy roast beetroot and salty crumbly feta.  Another favourite is the Kale, Mushrooms and Chilli on Sourdough Toast, pictured above  (January 2013) which is not only delicious but feels so full of goodness.  To go with a cup of tea you can’t beat Patrick’s Plum Cake (October 2012) squidgy and delicious with almonds and plums.

What I am looking forward to now is Plum Crumble, hot juicy tangy plums with a sweet crunchy blanket of crumble on top, the purple juices seeping up making it sticky and chewy.  Or celeriac remoulade, at once both crunchy and creamy with some lovely air dried Dorset ham – what could be better on a crisp sunny day with perhaps a glass of cold cider on the side…..  Or maybe this Kale, Lentil and Bacon soup.

A super cosy, warming yet fresh and healthy soup if ever there was one. Earthy lentils, verdant good for you kale and a little salty hit of bacon.  So good.  As ever, I feel a splash of dry sherry enhances a veg based soup but it is up to you.  A really cracking result depends on a good stock,  I don’t always make my own (I know, I know) but ensure I buy a top quality one.  I used chicken stock here but you could use a vegetarian one, omit the bacon and make this vegan should you so wish.

Kale, Lentil and Bacon Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped

100g puy lentils

1 litre stock, chicken or vegetable (see introduction)

A splash of dry sherry

A few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked

100g kale, chopped

Cook the bacon and onion in the oil until soft.  Add the lentils, give it a good stir then add the sherry.  Let it sizzle briefly, pour in the stock and cook until the lentils are just about done.  Stir in the kale and thyme and cook for a minute or two until the kale is wilted.  Serve with some good crusty bread.  Enough for 3-4 depending if there is anything else for lunch.

My life in hamburgers

Turkey Burger 2

There are some things that follow you through your life and so it is with what we eat.  We might cast some aside if they become dated or our tastes change, for instance I don’t miss the Vesta Chop Suey, Smash or Instant Whip.  A Crispy Pancake has never graced my table and I must admit to not being a fan of the Arctic Roll….  Others though follow and accompany you.  One such friend that I am always delighted to come across is the burger, slider or hamburger as they used to be called.

I remember the excitement of my first Wimpy, enthralled by the red restaurant on the side of the road and this funny little patty in the soft, slightly sweet bun.  Then, a real childhood treat, the Hard Rock, that noisy rocking joint on Piccadilly in London with the waitresses dressed as proper American diner gals and guitars on the walls.  The burgers were big and juicy and the milk shakes so thick your straw really did stand up in them.

As I got older we would frequent a place on the Fulham Road called Parsons which had a monster called an All the Way, and I’ve enjoyed many Tootsies burgers with that real flame grilled flavour.  The veal burger at The Boxwood, the superb GBK and the likes of Dirty Burger bring us nearly up to date.

During these years there were of course the hamburgers at home.  Regular patties, usually beef were (and still are) a favourite lunch.  The table would groan under plates of tomato, lettuce, pickles and cheese so you could build and create your own bespoke masterpiece.  There was ketchup, American mustard, mayonnaise and do you remember Cubits pickles, green, red or yellow.

The burger remains on my party list to this day.  Now though it might be lamb or turkey mince, salmon and tuna can make a fine fish burger too.  Chopped herbs and spices are added, various chutneys, salsas and mayos offered on the side.  It might be a normal two handed number or one of these new fangled little sliders.  It doesn’t matter,  the principle remains unaltered and why shouldn’t it, a good burger is pretty much perfection.

Turkey Burger 1

Turkey Burger with Harissa and Garlic Mayo

Turkey, rather like a puppy, is not just for Christmas (does that sound a bit wrong? You know what I mean).  Yet for so many that is the only time it makes the table.  Turkey is good for us, not too expensive and makes a very good burger – give this one a try.

500g turkey mince

2 teaspoons harissa paste (add more if you like, this is just right for my children)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Black pepper, a good few grinds

Small bunch parsley finely chopped

A handful of breadcrumbs

Mix everything together really well, your hands are best for this.  Fry a very small amount and taste.  You may need more seasoning or harissa if you want things a little more fiery.  When you are happy with the mixture, divide into 4, roll into balls and then flatten into the traditional patty shape.  Heat your griddle or frying pan and cook – the ones you see pictured took about 8 minutes on each side, you can make a little cut into one and check if it is done.  Serve with the garlic mayo and any other accompaniments you want.

Garlic Mayo

100ml mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, crushed

Juice of half a lemon

Mix it all together in a bowl and serve with the turkey burgers.

Turkey Burgers

 

 

Cakes and Chutney

Green Tomato Chutney

I know, I know, it sounds as if I have become the embodiment of the WI and will shortly start belting out Jerusalem whilst stoveside.  The reason behind my tweed clad, pearl strung transformation is twofold.

Macmillan Cakes

This morning I hosted a Macmillan Coffee Morning.  You don’t need me to say what an amazing job Macmillan do and I hope all the other events today were fantastic and raised a huge amount.   A big thank you to all my fabulous friends who came and ate cake and bought chutney and biscuits and more cake.

Chutney and Biscuits

At the same time as my baking frenzy was taking place I found the garden full of green tomatoes which are now unlikely to turn scarlet red.  So a plan was hatched, make some chutney to sell in addition to all the sweet goodies on Friday.  I must tell you that whilst surrounded by all this chocolate, sugar, golden syrup, buttercream etc the one thing I have been craving is a cheese and chutney sandwich, the perfect salty savoury antidote.

Green tomatoes

My green tomato chutney will have to wait 6-8 weeks until suitably matured (although initial tasting is very promising) but that should make it tip top for Christmas and meanwhile I will have to rifle around the larder for something else to put in my sandwich…. oh for a red tomato.

Green Tomato Chutney

As with all chutneys you can play around a little with this recipe.  In the past I have used 3 eating apples but also once used 1 enormous bramley.  This time I only had green tomatoes but in the past I have used all green or a mixture of red and green.  Go with what you have.

1.5 kg tomatoes (see above) cored and chopped

3 eating apples, cored, peeled and chopped (you don’t have to peel but I prefer to)

3 onions, peeled and chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 thumb ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

4 cardamom pods, split

100g raisins

400ml cider vinegar

250g sugar

Good pinch of salt

Put everything into the biggest pan you have, bring to the boil then simmer gently for 4 hours stirring occasionally.  It will reduce by more than half and become dark, thick and pulpy with no excess liquid.  You may need a little longer, it rather depends on the size of your pan and the surface area simmering/evaporating etc.   When it is done you should be able to draw a wooden spoon across the bottom and see the base of the pan clearly before it slides back.  Decant into steralised pots, I find it easiest to put these through the dishwasher, label and put away for 6-8 weeks before tucking in .  Makes 5 jars.

 

Macmillan Balloons

The vanilla and chocolate biscuit recipe can be found in a previous post of mine,  Biscuits du Jour (November 2012)

Cosy Beef Stew and Parsley Dumplings

Anna May everyday Beef stew close

This summer has been fantastic, I have loved the sun, the heat and eating a lot of salads.  Whilst basking in all this however, there was a tiny bit of my happy in the knowledge that come September it might cool down a little and I would be able to light the fire and make some cosy autumn food.

Now, I realise I seem to have dived right into ‘freezing outside, possibly even snowing winter food’ but you know what I couldn’t resist.  It has been months since my last stew (I feel that should have been confession) and it was time for a fix.  Added to that my little boy asked earlier in the week when we would be having stew and dumplings.  Sooner than you think my little treasure I thought to myself.

Here it is and it is a beauty.  Very simple, 30 minutes work tops and then a few hours in the oven.  What you are rewarded with however, far exceeds that brief effort you put in.  Tender falling apart beef, soft carrots, crispy and fluffy dumplings with masses of glistening savoury gravy.  You can then sit around the table, enjoy this with some greens and perhaps raise a glass of good red wine to the fabulous summer of 2013.

Beef and Carrot Stew with Parsley Dumplings

1 kg braising beef, cubed

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, chopped

7/8 medium carrots, peeled and halved lenthways

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

500ml beef stock

200ml red wine

1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly

Sprig of thyme

A bayleaf

For the dumplings –

100g self raising flour

50g suet

A handful of parsley, finely chopped

5 tablespoons cold water

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 150c.  Heat the oil in a large casserole (that has a lid) and brown the meat in batches and set aside.  Then fry the onion (you may need a little more oil) until softened.  Return the meat to the pan, sprinkle over the flour and stir it in well.  Pour over the stock and wine and redcurrant jelly, give it a mix then add the carrots, thyme and bay leaf.  Put into the oven for 3 hours.

Just before the time is up, mix the ingredients for the dumplings and form into little balls about the size of a walnut and turn the oven up to 180.  Remove the pan from the oven, quickly (and carefully) check the seasoning and then place the dumplings onto the surface of the stew.  Put the lid back on and return to the oven for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes to crisp up the outside of the dumplings.  Enough for 4.

We followed this with a fabulous custard tart (I know, I know, bikini appropriate food clearly now forgotten) and it made me proud of British Food!

Anna May everyday Beef stew empty

 

Chorizo, tomatoes and beans

Chorizo beans and tomatoes

Chorizo, choritzzo, schoreetho, however you say it I love it.  That red spicy warmth pervades any ingredients that get in its way and frankly makes most things taste that little bit better.  Usefully it has a great shelf life and as such I often keep it in the fridge and that is how this lunch started out.  Our plans changed the other day and I found we would be home rather than out for lunch and that the fridge was looking pretty bare but fortunately contained a pack of chorizo.   The beans, both runner and French, have been very successful in the garden this year and we haven’t done badly for tomatoes or potatoes.  So following a rustle around I had one of those serendipitous moments when although completely unplanned, the ingredients I had available went together fabulously.  So much so that I made this again a couple of days later with the addition of boiled new potatoes.

Whilst barely a recipe I offer it here in its original form which we had with a lovely loaf of   bread which managed to be both crusty without and squidgy within, a perfect combination.  On the second occasion I added boiled sliced new potatoes to the mix and they worked a treat too so go for whichever you prefer.

By the way, not only does it taste magic but it looks fantastic as well piled up on a white plate – a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy (if that is not a bit cheesy)?!

Chorizo, tomato and green bean salad

180g-200g chorizo (the cooking sausages rather than the thin sliced salami type) chopped

200g green beans, you can use French, runner or bobby or a mixture, topped and tailed

200g tomatoes, halved or quartered

1 tablespoon good olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Bunch of parsley (optional)

Fry the chorizo in a large pan until cooked and a little crispy in places.  Cook the beans in boiling water until just (I mean just) cooked but retaining crunch.  Tumble the tomatoes and beans into the pan with the chorizo, add the oil and vinegar and turn gently until thoroughly mixed and then put on a large serving plate.  Sprinkle salt and pepper and with chopped parsley if you have some.  How quick and easy was that?

Enough for 4.

Chocolate and beetroot cakes

 

Beetroot and chocolate cakes

I made these before the holidays but didn’t get a chance to pass the recipe on.  My son’s class at school were having a Food Festival and parents were asked to contribute cakes that had been made with a vegetable as an ingredient.  I made these, some little courgette and vanilla cakes and also some blackcurrant and avocado cakes.    The beetroot and chocolate were not only the favourite of the ones I made but also won the first prize out of all entries – the children loved them, even those who professed not to like beetroot (quite a few).   I was delighted and very proud.  To keep me in my place however, one little girl did stop eating her cake the moment she heard it contained beetroot and could not be persuaded to continue with it……

I don’t think it is a new thing baking with vegetables, carrot cake has been around for a while after all, but it seems to be enjoying a boost at the moment.  The veggies do add a delicious moistness to cakes and in most cases reduce the fat content.  Perhaps it also eases our conscience that there is veg in our treats, a cunning way to increase that five a day and I am all for that.

So you could try these because they are maybe a little better for you than the usual chocolate cupcakes or just because they are extremely good to eat.

Chocolate and Beetroot Cakes

160g beetroot, cooked and peeled

40g cocoa

120g plain flour

160g caster sugar

2 eggs

140ml oil

1 heaped tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180.  Line a bun tin with cup cake paper cases .  Sift the cocoa, flour, baking powder and mix with the sugar and salt in a bowl.  Puree the beetroot, add the eggs and oil and whizz again.  Mix with the dry ingredients, put into the paper cases and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  This made 12 and I had a little mixture over for some mini ones which I only cooked for 10 minutes.

 

 

Courgette, feta and mint salad

Anna May courgette salad

One year the courgettes I grew in the garden seemed endless.  Everytime I went out there were two or three ready to pick.  This year I have had two – one, small and perfect which I chopped up raw into a salad.  The second had been missed beneath the leaves and was enormous, a small marrow in fact.  Courgette and mint soup for that one.

Fortunately though, courgettes are plentiful and cheap in the shops at the moment and this salad is one of my favourite things to do with them.  The slight charring can be achieved on the barbeque or griddle pan, whichever suits you.  It is this cooking process though that seems to transform the flavour of the courgettes into something delicious that my children will happily eat whilst a steamed disc of the same would fill them with dread.

The combination of the salty feta and fresh mint with the lemony dressing completes the picture.  We ate this with chicken thighs marinaded in a bit of chilli and garlic then cooked on the barbeque (sorry South African husband, the braai) and new waxy potatoes dug from the garden just before supper.

The treat of the brand new freshly dug potatoes makes up for this years disastrous courgette crop!

Anna May courgettes

Courgette, feta and mint salad

6 courgettes, thinly sliced lengthwise

100g feta, cubed

A handful of fresh mint leaves

Juice of one lemon

A clove of garlic, crushed

4 tablespoons good olive oil

Mix the sliced courgettes with one tablespoon of the oil.  It seems very little but they only need the merest coating then griddle or barbeque until lightly charred and floppy.  Put aside on a large plate.  Mix the remaining oil with the lemon juice, crushed garlic, some pepper and a little salt (remember the feta with be salty).  When you have cooked all the courgettes, tumble them onto a large serving plate along with the feta and pour over the dressing.  Mix it carefully together and then top with the mint leaves.  Enough for 4.

 

Nectarine and Cherry Galette

Anna May everyday Nectarine and Cherry Tart-2

So, not a fantastic photograph I’m afraid but this was last nights pudding, it was on the table and I had to get a picture before it got eaten.  I have to share it though because it was the simplest, as these freeform tarts or galettes always are, and just fabulous because of the combination of fruit and crispy sweet pastry.  Immediately I have to admit that it was bought shortcrust (come on, it is the summer holidays) but that doesn’t matter.  I chose nectarines and cherries because I had some a little soft and in need of eating up.

I rolled the pastry, my daughter put the fruit on and folded the crust up, we popped it in the oven and it was done.  As luck would have it, a chance putting together of ingredients produced something wonderful.  I can’t take any credit – it was simply what was in the larder and I needed to make a pud.  Serendipity.

Nectarine and Cherry Galette

2 nectarines, sliced

A handful of cherries, stoned and halved

A handful of raspberries

1 dessert spoon plain flour or ground almonds

250g sweet shortcrust pastry

2 dessert spoons caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 190 and put a flat baking tray on the shelf to heat.  Put the fruit into a bowl with one dessert spoon of caster sugar, give it a mix and leave while you get on.  Roll out the pastry into a rough circle or oval.  Transfer gently to a tin lined with baking parchment.  Sprinkle the middle of the pastry with the flour or ground almonds (this will absorb any excess juice and stop the base of the galette becoming soggy).  Top with the fruit, fold the pastry edge over the fruit, sprinkle the whole thing with the remaining dessert spoon of sugar.  Put the tin into the oven directly onto the baking tray – this will ensure the base gets cooked properly and will be crisp and lovely.  Cook for 30-35 minutes until golden.  Some juice may leak out which matters not.   This was enough for 4 and we had it with cold cream.  Vanilla ice cream would be good too.

If you have pastry left, make mini versions of this or my lemon and raspberry tarts (June 2013) or just good old fashioned jam tarts.  Alternatively of course you could just make a bigger one of these and up the amount of fruit.

 

 

Tomato Bruschetta (summer on toast)

Anna May everyday Tomato bruschetta

Is this the taste of Summer?  I think it might be.  It is also one of the simplest and most rewarding.  All you need is a loaf of sourdough (or similar), a pile of tip top, super ripe, full of sun juicy tomatoes, some really good olive oil, garlic and a few herbs if you have them.

My family love these and we eat them several times a week when the tomatoes are on top form.  I toast the bread, chop the tomatoes and then set up a production line – a plate full of these bruschetta are always greeted with delight and never hang around.

I urge you to make these.  The toms in my garden are still a little small and green but the ones at my local farm shop are perfect right now (Washingpool Farm Shop in case you are near the coast on the Dorset/Devon border this summer, superb shop and worth a visit).

Surprisingly these also work for a picnic, just toast the bread at home and then take the tomato mixture in a tub.  When you get where you are going rub some garlic over the toasts (undressed sourdough stays crispy for ages) then top with tomatoes and drizzle with a little of the oil.  Tuck in with your toes in the grass or better still the sand and remind yourself what summer tastes like.

Anna May everyday Tomatoes

Tomato Bruschetta

It is difficult to be exact as I don’t know the size of your sourdough but this is a guide.  This amount would serve 4 with drinks before lunch or dinner but I bet they will want more.

1/2 loaf sourdough

Tomatoes, around 300g

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clove of garlic peeled and halved

A splash of red wine vinegar

Pinch of salt

Fresh marjoram or basil of you have some to hand

Slice and toast the sourdough.  Finely chop the tomatoes and put in a bowl with the oil, vinegar, a pinch of sea salt and some black pepper if you like, stir.  Rub the toasts with a cut side of garlic, top with the tomato mixture.  Pour over any remaining oil and sprinkle with the herbs.