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French Pear, Almond and Cardamom Cake, Gluten Free

Source: via Happy on Pinterest

For the past several days we've had an Italian cooking in my Kitchen, so today I thought I would run with the European Theme,  and show you something that is quite typically French. The French and English share a somewhat tenuous love/hate relationship I think . . . we've come to love their cafe culture and flock over the channel in hordes to partake of their lovely foods and cheeses . . . and yet at the same time . . . we're not quite ready to embrace them as a people . . . nor are they ready to embrace us I don't think.  I think perhaps they will always see us a little bit as intruders . . . and more than a little bit crazy.


They think we work too hard . . . we eat too fast . . . we don't know how to relax .  .  .  our cheeses are boring (NOT) and the only thing we know how to cook properly  is Roast Beef.  We think they have a tendency to be a bit laisser faire about life . . . they take too long to eat . . . they eat far too much garlic, and they are missing cheddar in their cheese shops (only the best cheese in the world, lol) . . . not to mention, they eat some pretty strange things like escargots and frogs legs . . .  oh, and all  the men have mistresses . . .
(Note . . . these are only random generalizations . . . and not the way I really think.  I am merely taking a fun poke at things.  My father is French.)


In reality, I love French food and patisserie . . . I always have done . . . especially the rustic country fare . . . and who does bread better than the French???   I don't think anyone can beat their bread . . . the first thing I do when we go across to Calais on the Ferry is to indulge in a fresh Almond Croissant . . . and don't get me started on their Macarons . . . I just adore them.  I could quite happily spend a week in a French Patisserie, indulging all of my whims and pastry fantasies.


This cake here today is a recipe which I gleaned from one of my favourite cookery books "Under the Walnut Tree, great recipes from our kitchen" by mother and daughter,  Anna and Fanny Bergenstrom.  No, they are not French.  They're Swedish, but their cooking is a happy mix of all things European, including this lovely cake, entitled "Granny's French Pear and Almond Cake."


It's a lovely cake, gluten free . . . loaded with beautiful ripe pears . . . ground almonds  . . . and I added a touch of ground cardamom as pears and cardamom are such a quintessentially beautiful partnership and marriage of flavours.


The end result is a cake that is a beautiful light . . .  almost ethereal . . . creation.  Simple and yet divine.  Feel free to make this in individual dishes if you wish.  That would be so sweet upon the table I think . . . for today though, I just baked it in one 8 by 10 porcelain baking dish . . . and it looked every bit as lovely as it tasted.



*French Pear, Almond and Cardamom Cake*
Serves 4 to 5
Printable Recipe

A light cake, stogged full of lovely sweet pears, ground almonds and just the merest hint of cardamom, which goes so very well with the pear.  Serve warm with some pouring cream.  If I am not mistaken this is also gluten free.

100g of ground almonds (19 TBS)
2 TBS butter, softened for buttering the dish
4 large firm, ripe pears
100g of butter, at room temperature (7 TBS)
100g of golden caster sugar (8 1/2 TBS)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
pinch salt
2 medium free range eggs
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
icing sugar to dust
pouring cream or vanilla ice cream to serve

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Butter an oven proof dish with the soft butter.

Peel your pears, core them and then cut them into thick wedges.  Arrange the wedges in the prepared baking dish and then pop them into the heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, while you mix together the batter.

Cream together the butter and caster sugar until light.  Stir in the ground almonds, cardamom and salt.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Stir in the lemon juice until the mixture is smooth and combined.  Remove the baking dish from the oven and spread the almond batter over top of the pear wedges.

Return to the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes. 

Dust the warm cake with some icing sugar and serve either  on it's own, or with some pouring cream or vanilla bean ice cream.
Marie Rayner
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An Italian in the English Kitchen, part 2: Dessert

Since I am away at the Turkey Awards in London, I have another  lovely guest post here for you today from my friend Giuseppe of the blog Il Paladino del Gusto.

(I hope that he doesn't mind me sharing his photo with you.)

Giuseppe is a handsome Italian Chef who cooks and works in Parma, Italy and has very kindly offered to step into my place while I am away.   He has a degree in Gastronomic Sciences, and is a trained Pasta Chef, and works as a manager/trainer in the Food and Beverage Industry in Italy.  I hope you will give him a very warm welcome and go and visit his page in return.  Remember that English is not his first language, nor is Italian mine!  I think together we have done very well with this presentation,  so for now here is the dessert that he wishes to share with us.


 *Sformatino al Ciccolato*
Chocolate Souffle cakes with custard
makes about 5-6 servings
Printable Recipe

This dessert is the most popular on the menu at the restaurant where I work.  It is very delicate and very delicious!
(Note:  The recipe was originally to serve 50 people.  I (Marie) have adapted it to serve only 5 or 6.)

For the little souffle cakes:
100g plain chocolate
100g of unsalted butter
100g of plain flour
80g of caster sugar
2 large fresh free range eggs
1 tsp baking powder

For the Custard:
250ml of whole milk
250ml of double cream
7 large free range egg yolks
125g of caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
15g of cornflour (cornstarch)


For the Custard:
Mix the milk and double cream together in the top part of a double boiler.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together and whisk this into the milk mixture. 

Whisk together the cornflour with some cold water to make a paste.  Whisk this into the milk mixture.  Place the saucepan over the bottom pot of the double boiler, over simmering water, over medium heat.  Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 82*C.  Remove from the heat, whisk in the vanilla,  and allow to cool, stirring occasionally.  Cover the surface with some plastic cling film to keep a skin from forming.

For the souffle cakes:

Melt the chocolate and butter together in the top of a double boiler over simmering water.

Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them together with the sugar.  Sift together the flour and baking powder.  Fold this into the egg mixture, then add the melted chocolate butter mixture and beat thoroughly.

Butter 5 to 6 ramekins and dust lightly with some caster sugar.  Divide the chocolate mixture between them.  Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Bake the souffle cakes for 10 minutes without opening the door.

Ladle some of the custard sauce into the bottom of 5 to 6 dessert plates.  Top each with a chocolate souffle cake, turned out.  If desired dust with some icing sugar to serve.  These cakes are best served warm so that the middle is soft.  It will solidify as it cools, so these are best served warm to hot.
 Do NOT over bake!

Many thanks Giuseppe!

I'll be back tomorrow with something delectable from our shared neighbour France.  (We're being very European this weekend!)
Marie Rayner
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An Italian in The English Kitchen

Source: tumblr.com via Emily on Pinterest

Since I am away at the Turkey Awards in London, I have a lovely guest post here for you today from my friend Giuseppe of the blog Il Paladino del Gusto.

(I hope that he doesn't mind me sharing his photo with you.)

Giuseppe is a handsome Italian Chef who cooks and works in Parma, Italy and has very kindly offered to step into my place while I am away.   He has a degree in Gastronomic Sciences, and is a trained Pasta Chef, and works as a manager/trainer in the Food and Beverage Industry in Italy.  I hope you will give him a very warm welcome and go and visit his page in return.  Remember that English is not his first language, nor is Italian mine!  I think together we have done very well with this presentation,  so for now here is the first dish he wishes to share with us.

This is a dish he cooked for a Michelin Starred Restaurant in 2004.  A delicious looking dish of pasta with vegetables and shellfish.  Shellfish is not something you find very often on here as both the Toddster and I are allergic, so do enjoy a rare treat!


*Spaghette alla Chitarra tiepidi con verdure croccanti e crostacei, olio allo scalogno
(Narrow stripped spaghetti with crispy vegetables, shellfish and shallow oil)
Looks to serve 4
Printable Recipe

A tasty recipe from Giuseppe Salvador Paladino of  the blog Il Paladino del Gusto.  A little taste of Italy on the English Kitchen.

400g of narrow stripped spaghetti
400g of shellfish
40g of celery,
40g of carrots
20g of red pepper
20g of yellow pepper
20g of courgette
4 liters of shellfish stock
1 liter of vegetable stock
50g of shallot oil
2 small shallots, chopped
some chives
salt and black pepper

This is an exquisite Italian main course and easy to prepare.  The sauce can be prepared a few hours in advance and re-heated at the moment of service.


  • Cut the vegetables (celery, carrots, peppers, courgette and shallow) into cubes of 5mm size.  Saute each one separately in a pan with oil for a few minutes, until they turn crispy.
  • Put the vegetables in a very large bowl because it has to hold pasta and sauce.
  • De-glaze the pan with a ladle of vegetable stock for each of the vegetables.  You have to reduce it and add the "glassa" to the same bowl of before.
  • Heat some more oil in the  skillet.  Add the shallots and saute over medium heat until tender, but not coloured. Keep warm.
  • Peel, de-vein and steam the shellfish.  (You can use these carcasses to prepare for the shellfish stock.)  Of course you must cut the shellfish into bite sized pieces.
  • Cook the pasta in the shellfish stock, according to the package directions.  When cooked, drain well and then return to the pan with the shallots and oil in it.  Add the vegetables and shellfish.  Toss together.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and freshly chopped chives.   Pour into a large pasta bowl for serving.
I don't know about you, but even though I can't eat shellfish, my tastebuds are tingling.  Tune in tomorrow when he shares one of his favourite desserts with us all!

Thanks Giuseppe!
Marie Rayner
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Pork Cutlets with a Port and Cherry Pan Sauce

Pork is not something we eat a lot of in our house . . . It's not that we don't like it.  We both really love it . . . it's just not something we have very often.  When we do have it, I find myself wondering why we don't have it more often than we do!!  It's so very yummy!

When I was a child, we used to have pork chops about once a week.  In the olden days, way back then, people used to think that you had to cook pork to death . . . and so my mother's pork chops always closely resembled boomerangs.  It  never failed.  They always ended up dry and hard, except that you didn't want them to come back!  Sorry mom!

Mom would sometimes cook roast pork . . . but my dad only liked it served cold, so we never had hot roast pork for dinner.  It was always served  a day old and cold . . . thinly sliced, and  with some French's mustard on the side.  I used to long for a hot roast pork dinner . . . with lots of gravy and mashed spuds, and perhaps some applesauce and stuffing.  (Oh and let's not forget the brussels sprouts and carrots!)

We never ever had anything like pork tenderloin.  I am not sure I even knew pork tenderloin existed when I was growing up!  (Not in our house anyways!)  Once I became an adult, however, and began cooking for myself, I made up for lost time with lots of hot roast pork dinners, tender pork chops and tasty pork tenderloin . . .  One of my favourite ways to do a Pork loin involves making deep cuts into it every couple of inches of the surface and inserting thin slices of garlic and herbs into the pockets.  It's also fabulous stuffed with fruit . . . especially prunes and apricots . . .

I love pork tenderloin, as long as it's cooked properly. It is like the filet steak of porkdom!  Nice and tender and full of flavour . . .

Pork goes so  very well with fruit.  More often than not we have it with apples and cider . . .  but occasionally you come across a little gem like this fantastic recipe that I found in Cooking Light.  (Which also means it is low in fat and calories!  Always a bonus!) I adapted it slightly, of course!  The original didn't call for flouring the meat, but I felt that it would give it a lovely crispy crust.

I was right.  This is fabulous!  The meat nice and tender and moist, but with a rich outside crust, and that sauce . . . it's a wonderful combination of fruit and tang . . . in short . . . to die for!  A most wonderful combination!

What's even better is that it comes  together lickety split!!  You can have it on the table quicker than you can say Jack Robin!!  This will have them licking their chops for sure!  I would serve this to company!!

*Pork Cutlets with a Port and Cherry Pan Sauce*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Delicious pork tenderoin cutlets sauteed until golden brown and served with a scrumptious Port and Dried Cherry pan sauce.

250ml of ruby port (1 cup)
a generous handful of dried cherries
4 tsp seedless raspberry jam
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 TBS sunflower oil
1 1/2 pound piece of pork tenderloin, trimmed
2 dessert spoons of plain flour
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 TBS butter

Whisk together the port, cherries, jam and mustard.  Set aside to allow the cherries to macerate and plump up a bit.

Cut  the pork tenderloin crosswise into 16 even pieces.  Season well with  some salt and black pepper.  Dust lightly with flour, shaking off any  excess.

Heat the oil in a skillet until hot.  Add the pork and  cook approximately 4 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked  through.  Remove from the pan and set aside, keeping it warm.

Stir  the wine mixture into the pan, scraping to loosen any browned bits up from  the bottom of the pan.  Allow to bubble up and reduce until about half  the volume.  Remove from the heat.  Whisk in the butter.  Divide the  pork between heated dinner plates, spooning an equal amount of cherry  sauce over each portion.
Marie Rayner
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Glazed Blueberry Muffins


We were invited to some friends this afternoon for coffee(Herbal tea) and cake. I've known Jan for about 8 or 9 years now, but this was the first time we would be meeting in person.  We've talked many times on the telephone and exchanged many e-mails, and I don't know why exactly it took so long for us to get together . . . but it finally happened.  I was so excited to be finally meeting her.


I wanted to bring something with me so I decided to bake us some lovely Blueberry Muffins.  (Y'all know how much I love blueberries!)  Like the lemon that I am . . . I left them sitting on the counter top and never realized I had forgotten them until we were almost there.  So I quickly picked up a nice box of chocolates in a convenience store on the way and ended up arriving muffin-less . . .


I know . . . all together now . . . What am I like???


Nevertheless we had a lovely visit with each other and even the guys got along well.  If she enjoyed me even half as much as I enjoyed her, then it was a success, I'd say.  We're meeting again for Thanksgiving.  We're both Canadian and agree that sharing Thanksgiving with a European is not quite the same as sharing it with a fellow Canuck.  I can't wait!   It's just going to be the best Thanksgiving!!!

She had baked a lovely carrot cake, so we didn't exactly miss the muffins . . . but I sure would have loved to be able to share them with her and her lovely husband.  These are truly the best Blueberry Muffins ever.


Adapted from a recipe in my King Arthur Flour Baking book, they always bake up nice and light and are so moist and flavourful.  We just love them.

I like to rub my lemon zest into my sugars when I am using lemon zest.  It's a little trick I learned from my mate Dorie Greenspan.  It just makes anything with lemon zest in it taste even lemonier!  Or at least I think it does . . . and it smells good enough to eat while you are rubbing it in . . . and you haven't even started to really cook yet!

I like to use lots of berries, and do use more than the recipe calls for, but you can feel free to use as many or as few as you want.  You can even mix up the berries and use a combination.  That is quite yummy too.  Rich and buttery, and stogged full of lots of berries, these muffins are real winners . . . and that little cap on the top of buttery rich lemon icing doesn't hurt either.


It's like the icing on a very delicious cake, only better, coz . . . it's a muffin, and . . . its just for you.


*Glazed Blueberry Muffins*
Makes 12
Printable Recipe

If you don't think these are the best blueberry muffins ever, I'll eat my hat!

the finely grated zest of two unwaxed lemons
95g of golden caster sugar (1/2 cup)
60g of light brown muscovado sugar (1/3 cup)
57g of unsalted butter, softened (1/4 cup_
60ml of sunflower oil (1/4 cup)
2 large free range eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
265g of plain flour (2 2/3 cups)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
250ml of whole milk (1 cup)
150g of fresh blueberries (1 1/2 cups)

For the glaze:
3 TBS butter, melted
130g of icing sugar, sifted (1 cup)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
the juice of half a lemon
hot water as needed

Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  Lightly grease a medium size muffin tin, or line with paper liners.  Set aside.

Combine both sugars in a large bowl.  Rub in the lemon zest with your fingertips until it is quite fragrant.  (A little  trick I learned from Dorie.)  Drop in the butter and cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.  Add the oil, eggs and vanilla and beat well together.  Sift together the flour, soda, baking powder and salt.  Add to the creamed mixture, alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with flour.  Combine all well together.  Fold in the blueberries.  Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin cups, filling them almost to the top.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan while you make the glaze.

Whisk together all of the glaze ingredients until smooth and drizzelable, adding only enough hot water as needed to get the right consistency.  Dip the warm muffins into the glaze one at a time, glazing the tops and letting any excess drip off.  Place onto a wire rack and allow the topping to set.

Serve warm or cool.  Store any leftovers in an airtight container and use within two days.
Marie Rayner
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Macaroni Cheese Pies


One place I have not really visited yet during the 12 years I have been here in the UK is Scotland, not unless you count a flying visit up to Gretna Green one day while we were on Holiday one year in Cumbria.  It was only about an hour from where we were staying so we thought why not.  It wasn't Scotland proper, even though it was truly an interesting place to see.

 photo 1920e0217997c343c24c9402354e518c_zps4658bebe.jpg

I have always had a certain amount of affinity for the Scots . . . probably due to my latent Scottish Ancestry . . . and to the sight of both Mel  Gibson and Liam Neeson in kilts.  Be still my heart.  Do you think Scottish men really looked as good as all that way back when??  I dunno, but I sure like to think that they they did!  Yes, I also hold a certain yearning and love in my heart for historical romance novels about Scottish Lairds and clansmen . . . and Vikings . . . but we won't go there today, we're talking about the Scots.


The Scots are known for having wild temperaments, fabulous accents, huge calves, hairy cows . . . and their appetites for strange and unusual foods . . . like Haggis, Tatties and Neeps . . . and deep fried Mars Bars.  I have never tried anything but the vegetarian Haggis, and it was quite good . . . likewise the Tatties and Neeps . . . I don't think my heart could withstand the onslaught of a deep fried Mars Bar . . . but they do sound oddly appealing in a gluttonous sort of way!


Today I learned about a favourite hearty snack which hails from the bonny bonny land up North of us . . . Macaroni Cheese Pies.  Yes! Macaroni Cheese Pies!!


Think of it . . . your favourite supper dish . . . except in a pie.  Deliciously rich macaroni and cheese . . . all rich and moreishly cheesy . . . baked in a crisp and brown,  hot water pastry crust.    Apparently every baker has their own delicious version.


This is mine.  I like to use a combination of cheeses in my macaroni cheese.  A nice strong well flavoured cheddar, some Red Leicester for colour and taste . . . and some sharp Parmesan for yet another layer  of flavour.  I make my sauce extra rich with the addition of a bit of single cream, which helps to loosen the sauce just a little bit and give it additonal scrumminess.


This hot water pastry is very easy to make.  I don't think I've made pastry that was this easy to make before.  I had never attempted to even try, always thinking that it must be very difficult, but it wasn't difficult at all, or even labour intensive.  It is what is often used to make raised pork, chicken or ham pies . . .  very sturdy and crisp . . . and forgiving.  I baked my pies in stainless steel cooking rings, about 4 inches in diameter and about 2 inches tall, but you can use pie tins if you want.  Individual ones are best, or you could even use large muffin tins or individual ramekins.


They're really rather tasty I think, although I cannot imagine eating one as a snack.  To me this is a meal.  Delicious served hot, straight out of the oven with some rustic chips and ketchup on the side . . . or even at room temperature, making them the perfect portable lunch.

I do hope you will give them a try.  I think you'll be most pleasantly surprised.  Next time I think I'll add little bits of ham or crisp bacon to the mix, or broccoli,  maybe a bit of chopped tomato.   Or how about some crumbled Stilton and Walnuts?? Sounds positively scrummy!


 *Macaroni Cheese Pies*
Makes about 6
Printable Recipe

Apparently this is a favourite snack from Scotland.  You can use your own favourite macaroni and cheese recipe or the one I have posted here.  You will want to make your macaroni and cheese first so that it can be cold when it comes time to put it into the pies.

For the macaroni cheese:
2 TBS butter
2 TBS plain flour
250ml of whole milk (1 cup)
50ml of single cream (1/4 cup)
1/2 pound of grated cheese (a good strong Cheddar, Red Leicester, Parmesan)
(In whatever quantities you want, I basically use 1/2 cheddar, and 1/4 of each of the other two)
a healthy splash of hot sauce (Tabasco, etc.)
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
150g of macaroni, cooked as per package directions, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups)

For the pastry:
250g of plain flour (2 1/2 cups)
3/4 tsp salt
50g of solid white shortening, or lard (1/4 cup)
125ml of boiling water (1/2 cup)

More grated cheese to top

First make the macaroni and cheese.  To make the sauce place the butter into a saucepan over medium heat.  Melt and once it just begins to foam, whisk in the flour.  Cook, whisking for about a minute.  Slowly whisk in the milk, whisking constantly until the mixture bubbles and begins to thicken.  Whisk in the cheeses a bit at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next.  Stir in the hot sauce and seasonings.  Taste and adjust as necessary.  Stir in your cooked and drained macaroni.  Cover with a piece of cling film and set aside to cool completely.

To make your pastry.  Measure the flour into a bowl along with the salt, whisking both together.  Drop the fat in bits over top.  Pour the boiling water in all at once and stir quickly together with a fork until well blended.  Once you can easily handle it, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently until smooth.  Cover with the bowl and allow to rest for five minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400*C/200*F/ gas mark 6. 

Take 6  metal pastry rings, about 4 inches in diameter, and place them onto a baking tray.  Roll your pastry out on a lightly floured surface until it is 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out rounds large enough to fit into the metal rings with a bit of overhang.  Carefully fit the pastry into the rings, pushing it into the sides at the bottom all the way around with your knuckles to fit.  Once you have them lined properly, take a rolling pin and roll it across the tops to cut any excess pastry away.  Discard any excess.  Fill each of the rings with a portion of the macaroni cheese, filling them to just below the pastry edge.  Sprinkle each with some more grated cheese.

Bake in the heated oven for about 35 minutes, or until a rich golden brown.  Loosen the edges of the metal rings with a sharp knife and allow them to cool for 5 minutes before removing the metal rings to serve.

Best served hot or warm with some tomato ketchup and chips (French Fries) on the side.
Marie Rayner
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Irish Apple Cake & a nice cup of Tea

Hooray for autumn and all those lovely apples that are now being offered at road stands and in the produce departments of the local shops.  Not French Apples either, but beautiful, sweet delicious fresh British Apples.  Perfect for eating out of hand, cooking into sauces and chutnies . . .  and for baking into lovely pies, tarts, muffins and cakes.  Cakes like this beautiful one I am showcasing here today.

This is a deliciously different cake, baked from an old traditional  recipe which is Irish in origin.  What makes it different you ask???  Well . . . this is a cake that is  a cross between a cake and a scone . . .

The method used to make the cake batter is very similar to the same method you would use when making traditional scones . . . rubbing the butter into the flour with your fingertips until crumbly. Stirring in the wet ingredients with a round bladed knife to make a soft dough . . . but that is where the similarity ends.  It bakes up into a deliciously moist cake . . . not a sturdy scone.

I guess you could say that is is also similar to a pie, because you have both a top and a bottom crust, with a delicious apple filling sandwiched in the middle . . . the top and bottom crusts melting together at the edges, and then baking in and around the apples, to form one of  the tastiest cakes ever!!

At one time this cake would have been placed into an iron pot oven, with burning coals topping the pot . . . the pot situated close to the open fire on a rustic Irish cottage hearth . . .

Oh what a romantic image that inspires . . .  I can almost  see it now . . . the flames from the open fire licking up and down the walls . . . the light flickering on the dark cottage walls . . . the smell of smoke mingled with that beautiful smell of baking cakes . . . apples . . .  and spice . . .

Alas, we have no open hearth . . . simply an electric oven and a deep flan tin but nevermind . . . it still tastes pretty darn good!!!

Served warm with lashings of warm custard . . . this was the perfect rainy day teatime treat.

*Irish Apple Cake*
Serves 6 to 8
 Printable Recipe

A delicous version of an apple cake, baked with tasty apple slices sandwiched in the centre. Serve warm with or without custard.

225g self raising flour (generous 2 cups)
(You may need extra
so don't put the flour away just yet)
115g  butter (1/2 cup)
1 large free range egg, lightly beaten
115g caster sugar (9 1/2 TBS)
3 fluid ounces milk

2 cooking apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
57g soft light brown sugar (4 1/2 TBS)

a little beaten egg
1 level TBS of caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter a deep flan tin, with a loose bottom, roughly 9 inches in diameter. set aside.

Place the flour and butter into a large bowl. Rub the butter in with your fingertips to form a breadcrumb texture. Stir in the sugar. Add the beaten egg and milk and mix together with a round bladed knife. If the dough seems a bit too sticky add a bit more flour. You want a soft dough, but not a sticky one. Turn out onto a floured board and cut the dough in half. Place half of the dough into the flan tin, pressing it in with floured fingers to evenly cover the bottom of the dish. Spread the apple slices evenly over the base, leaving a bit of an edge all the way around. Sprinkle with the soft light brown sugar and the cinnamon. Carefully roll out the remaining half of the dough into a circle roughly the same size as the dish. Place on top of the apples, pressing the edges together with the bottom crust. Cut several slits in the top of the cake for ventilation.

Brush with a little beaten egg and sprinkle the TBS of caster sugar evenly over top. Bake for 35 minutes, until well risen and golden brown.

Place the tin on top of a jar and push the sides of the pan down and remove. Place the cake on a wire rack to cool to warm before cutting into wedges to serve.

If there's anything else that goes very well on a rainy day with a cake such as this, it is a nice hot cup of herbal tea.  Today we were supping on beautiful cups of Fruit Medley Tea which was sent to us from Adagio Teas.  A delicious herbal blend of rose hips, hibiscus, apple pieces, natural strawberry flavour and strawberries, orange peel and natural wild cherry . . . soooo good, almost addictive and soooo good for you!  A wonderfully aromatic and flavourful blend which contains nothing artificial, no sweeteners, and totally caffeine free.

Adagio Teas recently sent me a lovely assortment of their herbal tea range . . . all lovely. We've really been enjoying these lovely blends . . .

Lemon Grass . . . with a delicate Meyer lemon taste, as well as a slight hint of sweet ginger, and very aromatic floral fragrance. Smooth and fragrant. It felt very soft in the mouth, not astringent at all with a lovely clean finish. Very Thai . . . an uplifting, yet naturally caffeine free tea.

Blood Orange . . . another favourite with a deep vibrant colour and sweet tangy flavour . . . and yet without sugar.  It's a combination of orange peels, hibiscus flowers, rose hips and natural orange flavour.  Very, very rich and tangy . . . just lovely.  (I used to love Constant Comment tea when I drank black teas . . . and this really reminded me of that.)

Rooibos Vanilla . . . this lovely rooibos tea combines that beautiful and rich  sugary scent of vanilla, combined with the fruity juiciness from the rooibos, altogether almost dessert-like . . . but without the calories.  A cookie you can drink, and not gain an ounce on your hips.

White Blueberry . . . you know how much I love Blueberries . . . a premium white tea, combined with the taste of juicy blueberries.  The Canuck in me loved this both warm as a hot drink . . . but also cold as an iced tea.  It had a clean refreshing taste . . . most delectable.

You would think that all those lovely herbal blends would be enough . . . but no, they also sent me a beautiful little gift  set of "Love Petals." This is a sweetly presented set of three delicious sounding teas in gorgeously romantic looking  rose printed tins . . . Ripe for Romance (a mix of black tea, cocoa nibs, raspberry leaves, raspberry pieces, and natural chocolate and raspberry flavours.  Sounds nummy.)  Sweet Nothings (a mix of white tea, sunflower petals, lavender buds, apricot bits, and natural peach flavour) Hugs and Kisses (A mix or rooibos, rose petals, cornflowers, and natural vanilla, almond, cream and caramel flavours.)  I have not tried these yet, but they do sound delicious and those tins are just beautiful.  I think these would be a lovely gift for someone special.

Wow, nice . . . I can hear you thinking that.  But that is not all . . .

They also sent me this really neat little tea steeper!  The ingenuiTEA is a really nice looking piece of kit which promises to be the  most convenient tea pot you will ever find anywhere.

From their page:  The most convenient teapot you will find anywhere - we guarantee it. When tea is ready, simply place it atop your cup. This will cause a valve at the bottom to release: crystal-clear tea flows down, while the mesh filter retains all the leaves with one of the best infusers on the market. Super easy to clean and dishwasher safe - perfect for the office or the road. You will wonder how you got along without one. 

Can it live up to it's promise??

Very simple, easy to read and great instructions on it's use clearly printed on the side
of the box.

Boiled water added to the tea.

Steep for the required time.

Placed over the cup, it empties itself into the cup.  Just make sure your cup is large enough to take the amount of liquid in the teapot . . . or else it will over flow!  (That happened to me the first time I used it!  DUH!)

A beautiful, well steeped, delicious flavoured cup, of hot, warming, comforting tea.

What more could you want??

Many thanks to Stepas and Adagio Teas for affording me this lovely chance.
What can I say . . . I'm hooked.  These herbal blends are quite, quite fabulous!
Marie Rayner
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