Friday 30 September 2011

Autumn Berry & Almond Cake

What a lovely week we have had weatherwise. I have so enjoyed all the sunshine and warmth. A true Indian Summer week, the likes of which I have never experienced over here before. It's been a real treat! We've been out and about most days, which is also a real treat!

Almost as much of a treat as this tasty cake that I baked up yesterday afternoon! I had some berries in the fridge that I had bought the other day and wanted to use up . . . and decided a tasty cake was the best way to do it!

We love almonds and we love berries . . . the two together are heavenly. Especially when combined in a cake which is blissfully moist and buttery . . . and yet light at the same time . . . and absolutely stogged full of sweet/tart berries.

I chose to use blackberries and raspberries this time, but either one is lovely on their own, as are blueberries, or even all three together. Currants are also very nice. I love the crunch of the flaked almonds on top . . . it adds a wonderful texture.

You could have this with cream of course! We had it plain . . . but I may have another piece later on with some cream . . . and why not! Life is for living! (And I did rather do a lot of walking today!)

*Autumn Berry & Almond Cake*
Makes one 9 inch cake
Printable Recipe

A real family favourite. You can use any berries you have in any combination you like, alone or a mixture. I love to use raspberries and blackberries.

140g ground almonds (1 2/3 cups)
140g butter (2/3 cup)
140g caster sugar (3/4 cup)
140g self raising flour (1 1/4 cups)
2 large free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g of berries, fresh or frozen and defrosted (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 TBS flaked almonds
Sifted icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a 9 inch deep. loose bottomed cake tin and line the bottom with paper.

Cream together the butter, ground almonds, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla in a mixing bowl until evenly mixed together. Spread half of the mixture into the prepared tin. Top with the berries. Dollop the remaining half of the batter over top and roughly spread it out as best as you can. (I wet my fingers and use them. This seems to work best) Sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

Bake for 50 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin. Dust with icing sugar and cut into wedges to serve.

Over in The Cottage today you will find some tasty Chili Chocolate Strawberries. Tres, tres . . . scrummy!

Thursday 29 September 2011

Stir Up Spicy Rice Supper

I'm sure I would get no argument if I was to say that the price of food has been going up incredibly over the last six months or so. The same groceries that used to cost me £70 are now costing me closer to £100 . . . and I am having to really pick and choose very carefully what I purchase and cook.

This also means that I am relying on my store cupboard a lot more often. Living on a fixed income as we do, there is not a lot of spare cash around and most weeks we barely squeak by.

It's been nice having the garden this summer with all the fruit and veg, which has helped a lot and next year we plan on growing more and making less mistakes than we did this year with certain things.

The other night I threw together this really tasty meal with a piece of smoked sausage that I had in the fridge, the remains of a jar of tomato chutney, a packet of rice and a few other odds and sods and it was really, really tasty! So tasty in fact that I decided to share it with you all.

Don't you love it when you can throw together this and that and come up with something moreishly scrumptious?? I do. And . . . the leftovers the next day for lunch were even tastier than they had been the night before! Nom! Nom! It won't get any awards for looks, but I give it 10 out of 10 for flavour!

*Stir Up Spicy Rice Supper*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

This is just something that I threw together one night and it ended up being really delicious!

1 (227g) packet of smoked sausage, chopped
(I used the low fat one, it works out to about 2 cups chopped sausage)
1 green pepper, trimmed and chopped
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
150g punnet of button mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 (250g) packet of Tilda plain basamati precooked rice (about 2 cups of cooked rice)
salt and black pepper to taste
3 dessert spoons of tomato chutney (in North America, can use Heinz Chili Sauce)
1 tsp mild chili powder
2 ounces of grated Parmesan Cheese, divided (1/2 cup)

Heat a non stick skillet over medium heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray or brush with a bit of oil. Add the chopped sausage, peppers, celery, onions and mushrooms. Cook and stir until the sausage is beginning to brown a bit and the onion, peppers, celery and mushrooms are crispy tender. Stir in the rice, tomato chutney, chili powder and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep stirring and heat through. Stir in half of the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the remainder over top and serve.

Note - If you wanted to be even more economical you could use leftover chicken or pork, and leftover cooked rice in this with equally as tasty results!

Over in The Cottage today, a delicious Applesauce Spice Cake!

Tuesday 27 September 2011

A Delicious Gratin of Chard

We recently signed up to Abel & Cole again for a small veg and fruit box delivery each week and our first one arrived this morning. I was so thrilled to see a big bunch of rainbow Chard in it! We tried to grow chard this year, but the slugs never gave it a chance.

I know we could use slug pellets, but we just don't like to use them (bad for the birds) and the other stuff is largely in-effective. One night Todd went out into the garden and picked up no less than 40 slugs. We are going to have to do something about that before next year for sure.

Anyways there was this lovely big bunch of beautiful rainbow coloured Bright Lights Chard in it and of course I just had to cook it tonight for our supper. It was so very pretty with it's deep emerald green leaves riddled with beautiful veins and stems of raspberry pink, blood red, orange and yellow . . .

I just love chard . . . or silverbeet as it is also called. It has an almost earthy flavour . . . and is beautiful to eat when properly cooked. You don't to over cook either the leaves or the stems . . . it goes without saying that the slimmer stems are a bit more tender than the thicker ones, but no less tasty. They just need to be cooked that little bit longer.

I always separate the stems from the leaves and cook them separately, which seems to work very well for me. It's delicious simply steamed and then sprinkled with a dressing of lemon juice and olive oil, or vinegar as my mother used to use . . . but if you really want it to shine . . . prepare it as a gratin!

Oh so unctuously rich and creamy . . . with earthy undertones, and just a hint of sharpness from some grainy mustard, this is a real winner all round.

Me . . . I could eat just a plate of this and nothing else, but . . . we had it with some steamed and crushed pink firs from the garden and some lightly grilled Barnsley Chops (double lamb chops, English of course!)that I had simply sprinkled with a mixture of chopped rosemary, lemon zest and minced fresh garlic before grilling.

A most scrummy supper indeed! (The quantities given are for 4 as a side dish, but would make a very delicious light supper for two, served on it's own with some crusty bread for mopping up all those lucious juices.)

*A Delicious Gratin of Chard*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Earthy and moreishly delicious! This is quite simply the best.

450g of swiss chard (a scant pound)
400ml of double cream (about 1 2/3 cup)
2 TBS grainy mustard
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 ounce freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (1/4 cup)

Preheat your oven to 190*C/375*F/gas mark 5. Butter a shallow baking dish and set aside. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil.

Wash your chard really well. Cut the stalks from the leaves. Cut the stalks into short to medium sized pieces. Plunge the stems into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes, then scoop out with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the leaves and leave in the boiling water only until they are wilted. Toss the stems and leaves together (shake offy excess water) and then place them into the buttered dish. Whisk together the cream, mustard and salt and black pepper to taste. Pour this mixture over top of the chard. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Bake in the heated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, until bubbling and the top has lightly browned. Remove from the oven and serve.

And in The Cottage today, a delicous Blueberry Gingerbread.

Monday 26 September 2011

Wash Day Macaroni and Cheese

You will probably find my first Meatfree Monday post rather boring . . . delicious, of course . . . but boring nonetheless. I haven't had a time to go to the shops yet for this week's shopping so it's something I have pulled together using ingredients I have on hand.

This recipe is as old as the hills, hailing from a day and time when every Monday was Wash Day and women needed something quick and easy and that could basically take care of itself in the oven whilst they did the week's washing for the family.

This may be simple and plain, but it is filled with flavour. It's economical and easy to put together. The hardest part is probably making the bechamel . . . and anyone can do that, just so long as they remember the two rules of bechamel.

  • Don't be in a hurry and try to cook it over too high a heat. Medium-low heat and patience is the key
  • Whisk, whisk, and whisk some more. Whisk it constantly until it thickens. Don't turn your back on it for an instant. It's a sureity it will catch the second you take your eyes off of it!

Cooking marcaroni is likewise very simple. Just follow the package directions and stir it occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick together. Also be sure to add it to the water, only after it comes to the boil and keep it at a slow boil the whole time it is cooking.

I always use good quality Italian chopped tomatoes in tomato juice for this. Lotsa, lotsa good tomato flavour.

Likewise you will want to use a good and flavourful cheese. Today I used a mixture of the cheeses I had leftover from our trip up to Cumbria, the Flakebridge and the Eden Chieftan, but any good and flavourful cheddar will do.

The rest is just cooking magic. Totally delicious this is. I could eat it every day, no kidding. (All you need is a tasty mixed salad on the side and some crusty bread to sop up all of that tasty sauce!)

*Wash Day Macaroni and Cheese*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Plain and simple needn't mean that something isn't tasty. This is absolutely delicious!

2 TBS butter
2 TBS plain flour
12 fluid ounces milk (1 1/2 cups)
salt and ground white pepper to taste
6 ounces dry macaroni (1 cup)
1 (415g) tin of chopped tomatoes in juice (15 ounce tin)
1 stalk celery chopped
4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
6 ounces cheddar cheese, cubed and divided (1 1/2 cups)
Crushed croutons

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Cook and stir for one minute. Slowly whisk in the milk. Cook and stir until thickened. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a shallow casserole dish. Set aside.

Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain well. Stir in the tomatoes, onion, celery and half the cheese. Add the sauce and toss to mix. Pour into the prrepared baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese and some crushed croutons.

Bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly and lightly browned on top. Delicious!

Just in time for all that entertaining we'll be doing over the next couple of months with Bonfire Night and then Christmas, the people at Branstons have come out with some tasty new snacks! Branston Peanuts and Crackers are a delightfully tasty mixture of Branston's smooth pickle flavoured oven baked peanuts mixture together with savoury cheese flavoured crackers. Perfect as a nibble with drinks, these would be a great entertaining nibble during the holiday season. I highly recommend keeping a few bags in the cupboard just to put out when unexpected company drop by as well. I really enjoyed them. They were just the right combination of tang, crunch and salty moreishness. Many thanks to the people at TurnKey and Branstons for sending me some to try out! (Branstons and Cheese the perfect combination!)

Over in The Cottage today there's a delicious Blackberry Pie with Streusel Topping.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Lemon and Currant Swirl Cake

This is one of my favourite tea time loaf cakes. It's moist and delicious, even if . . . no matter how many times I make it I have not ever been able to keep the jam in the middle . . . and you know how much we like jam in this house!!

For some reason it always sinks to the bottom, but no mind . . . it's scrummy anyways!
The crumb is very moist and the jam sets it off just perfectly.
You don't have to use black currant jam either . . . you can use strawberry, or cherry, or blueberry. Heck, I've even used Lemon Curd, which is fantastic as well!!

If you want you can dust the top with some caster sugar instead of the icing sugar, or you can even leave it out all together.

Try cutting it into slices and placing them in a bowl, topping with some ice cream and then a bit of the same flavoured jam warmed up and spooned over top.

Absolutely splendiferously scrummy yummy!!! Nom! Nom!

*Lemon and Black Currant Swirl Cake*
makes one 2 pound loaf cake
Printable Recipe

I wish I could figure out how to keep the jam swirled into the cake, but nevermind, it tastes fabulous nonetheless!!

6 ounces butter, softened (3/4 cup)
6 ounces caster sugar (generous 3/4 cup)
3 large free range eggs
7 ounces self raising flour (1 3/4 cups)
1 ounce ground almonds (1/3 cup)
the grated zest of one unwaxed lemon
4 TBS black currant conserve
Icing sugar to serve

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*C/ gas mark 4. Line a 2 pound loaf tin with nonstick baking parchment. Set aside.

Place all of the cake ingredients, with the exception of the conserve, into a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for several minutes, until smooth. Spread into the prepared tin and smooth the top over. Place the conserve in a line down the centre of the cake and swirl it a bit with a round bladed knife.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Note: for some reason the jam always sinks to the bottom. I let the cake cool upside down so that it kinda moves back into the cake if you know what I mean. I wish I could figure out a way to stop this from happening!

Over in the Cottage today, a delicious Pineapple Slaw.

Oh, and I'm also talking about Elevenses in a guest post over on Picture Britain today! Hop on over for some more deliciousness!!

Saturday 24 September 2011

Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Crisps

We're having a fun activity for the ladies this morning at my church. "Desert Island Discs." Each sister has been encouraged to bring along a piece of their favourite music to share . . . most notably music that they would like to have with them should they be marooned on a desert island. It should be fun, and it will be interesting to see the variety of tastes in music we will all have as there is a great variety of ages in all the sisters.

I am in charge of bringing the refreshments . . . nothing too heavy. You know us women are always watching our waistlines. I figured on preparing something
desert-island-like. Something light and fruity.

I thought this delicious fruity salsa would be perfect.
Not only is it pretty and colourful, but it's also quite, quite delicious!!

The cinnamon crisps are the perfect go with . . . to help scoop the salsa out of the bowl. You can make them as light or as fattening as you like, by either using melted butter or cooking spray on them.

They have just enough spice and sweetness to go very well with all that tasty fruit.

This is always really popular and usually gets eaten all up in quick time. I hope that they like it.

I'm really looking forward to a very nice morning . . . beautiful music . . . the company of much beloved sisters . . . and a scrummy snack. What more could you ask for? (I'm also serving a tropical fruit punch, which should go down well!)

*Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Crisps*
Serves 10 to 15
Printable Recipe

A delightful mix of fruit, very colourful and pretty. The Cinnamon Crisps go very well.

1 pound of strawberries, hull and dice
1/2 pound raspberries
2 eating apples, peeled and diced (I like Granny Smith's or golden Delicious)
2 kiwi fruit, peeled and diced
2 TBS sugar
1 TBS soft light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 TBS strawberry preserves, stirred to loosen

For the Cinnamon Crisps
10 flour tortillas, cut into wedges (use a pizza cutter for ease)
cooking spray or melted butter
7 ounces of caster sugar (1 cup)
2 TBS ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Have a large baking sheet ready.

Whisk together the sugar and cinnamon for the crisps. Lay the tortilla wedges out on the baking sheet, in a single layer. Spray with cooking spray or brush with melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with the desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until crisp and lightly browned on the edges. Repeat until all the crisps are done.

Combine all the fruit together in a large bowl. Mix in the caster and brown sugars, cinnamon and strawberry preserves. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes.

Place the fruit salsa into a decorative bowl and place the bowl on a platter. Surround with the cinnamon crisps for dipping. Deliciously scrummy!

In the Cottage today, delicious Flash Fried Chicken with Lemon, Capers and Parsley

Friday 23 September 2011

Vegetarian Mushroom & Ale Pies to die for

The Toddster and I had the most delicious lunch today. Most delicious indeed. Sarah from Purple PR contacted me recently and asked me if I would like the opportunity to try out the latest offering from the Linda McCartney vegetarian foods range, the Linda McCartney Mushroom & Ale Pies.

(I admit that I have toyed with the idea of becoming Vegetarian from time to time . . . and would probably quite happily do so . . . except that I do like me a nice tasty steak from time to time . . . sigh . . . ) I was happy to give these new Linda McCartney Mushroom & Ale Pie's a try. We've eaten their sausages from time to time and really enjoyed.

These pies are the happy result of the hugely successful "Search for the UK's Tastiest Meat Free Dish" contest in 2010, and I have to put my hand up and admit freely that these are very tasty pies indeed. (As you know we are real pie afficionado's in this house!)

The pastry was light, flakey and delicious and the filling quite generously ample and oh so scrummy. Consisting of tender mushrooms, lentils and spinach in a wonderful gravy lightly flavoured with ale that was moreishly good indeed! All together they were quite wonderfully scrumptious and I can see me going out to buy some more the next time I am at the shops! They are available exclusively in Sainsbury's from 7th August 2011 at a affordable £1.99 and will be available at Tesco (10/10/11) and Asda (05/11/11) also priced at £1.99.

I believe that Linda McCartney did a lot to promote meat free eating and vegetarianism in her lifetime and her line of meat free products are considered to be some of the best around. I, for one, would highly recommend these tasty Vegetarian Mushroom & Ale Pies. This is truly food to come home to!

I was reading on the site about Meat Free Mondays, which is a campaign that was launched by Sir Paul McCartney and his daughters Stella and Mary, which encourages the nation to help slow climate change by reducing the amount of meat consumed by having at least one meat free day a week and was most impressed.

You can read more about it here. I think we'll be enjoying Meat Free Mondays in our house regularly from now on . . . although in truth, I'll admit that I'm not quite ready to give up that steak just yet . . .

As Todd said when we were enjoying these pies . . . "Vegetarian Food has come a looooong way since the 1960's!!" Many thanks to Sarah at Purple PR and Linda McCartney Foods for having afforded us this most delicious opportunity to try something new. I think we've found a new favourite around here!

There are Pink Drizzle Plum Muffins over in the Cottage today!