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Apple Crumble Tray Bake

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I hate it when you spend good money on something to eat and then when you get it home, it tastes like cardboard.  I bought a bag of apples the other day, and not just any old apple either . . .  Pink Ladies.  When I got them home and bit into one, it had about as much flavour as a piece of paper.  ZIP!  

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There was no sweetness to it . . .  none of that juiciness that you would expect from an apple.  Perhaps I am just spoiled . . .  or maybe it is just apples at this time of year.  In any case I was really disappointed and I had spent almost £3 on 4 apples.  If the price of petrol wasn't so high I would have gone back to the store with them., but instead I just grumbled about it and that was that.  

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It was the same as a punnet of pears that I bought, supposedly home-ripening.  HAH!  A week later, they are still as hard as rocks, and I took a bite from one today and it was BLECH!   I seriously doubt they will ever ripen.  It's positively criminal. I can't wait until the apples, plums and pears are ready on our trees!    

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I had gotten some Granny Smith's to make Todd an apple pie with, but today I didn't feel like making a pie and I made this apple tray bake instead, which is (in my opinion) just as good if not better than an apple pie, and I think a whole lot easier and I was feeling rather lazy . . . 

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With their buttery short bread base and sweet apple filling, not to mention that short buttery crumble topping, these always go down a real treat.  You can use whatever flavour of jam you want in them.  Today I used raspberry jam because that is what I had on hand.  They turned out fabulous!  As always.  Not quite pie . . .  but then again, I never heard anyone complaining either!

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*Apple Crumble Tray Bake*
Makes one 8 inch square pan

Delicious apple bars with a shortbread type base, a layer of raspberry jam, a sweet apple filling and a moreishly butter topping. Glaze or not as desired.

For the base:
187g of plain flour (1 1/3 cups)
2 TBS granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature (1/2 cup)

For the filling:
4 medium tart apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
5 TBS granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash  each of ground cardamom and freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp corn flour (corn starch)
2 TBS lemon juice
2 heaped dessertspoons of raspberry jam (about 1/4 cup)

For the topping:
70g plain flour
3 TBS granulated sugar
4 TBS unsalted butter, softened
pinch each salt, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg  

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Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter an 8 inch square baking pan.  Line with baking paper, leaving an overhang.  Butter the paper.  Set aside.

Sift the flour for the base into a bowl.  Whisk in the sugar and salt.  Drop in the butter and rub it in with your finger tips until you have a mixture resembling bread crumbs.
Press this evenly into the prepared pan, pressong down firmly.  Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, until lightly brown around the edges.

To make the filling, put the apples into a skillet along with the sugar and spices.  Cover over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender, but still holding their shape.  Whisk together the corn flour and lemon juice.  Stir this into the apple mixture.   Cook and stir until the mixture thickens.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.  

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Make the crumble topping by whisking the flour, sugar and spices together in a small bowl.  Rub the butter in with your fingers until you get a clumpy mixture.  

After the initial baking of the crust, remove it from the oven.   Loosen the jam with a fork and then spread it evenly over the hot base.  Top with the apple filling.  (I use my hands to spread it out evenly)  Top with the crumble topping, scattering it evenly over top.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool completely in the pan before lifting out and cutting into squares to serve.

An optional glaze can be made by whisking together 65g (1/2 cup) of icing sugar and enough lemon juice to give you a smooth and drizzable mixture.  Drizzle this decoratively over top of the apple bake and allow to set prior to cutting.
Marie Rayner
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Deliciously Different, Tuna Burgers . . . Fish for Friday

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I just love a good tuna burger.  I can remember cooking "Italian Tuna Burgers" in home economics when I was at school.   They were lovely and filled with what I thought were exotic ingredients at the time . . . olives, mushroom soup and mozzarella cheese . . .  actually they were more like Tuna Melts, but whatever, they were mighty tasty!  

I can remember an old Italian woman in a grocery store one time telling me that the only tuna which was worth buying was Albacore Tuna.   It was rather expensive compared to the other tuna, but she really looked like she knew what she was talking about.  She said the other stuff was garbage.  So I did buy a tin of albacore tuna that time and that was when I learned that she was right.  Albacore is the best.  That is all I have bought since then.   It means we don't have Tuna quite as often as I would like to have it, but it also means that when we do have it, we really enjoy it.

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Albacore Tuna is a white tuna, milder in flavour than the other varieties.  It doesn't have that metallic or "fishy" flavour that you can find in the cheaper skipjack or yellow fin tunas.  It's slightly higher in calories and fat, but it's a good omega-3 fat which helps protect us against heart disease and cancer, so in my opinion . . . it's more than worth that little bit of extra money.

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This Tuna burger is quite simple to throw together.   There is nothing fancy in them, unless you consider Albacore Tuna to be fancy.  There is no mayonnaise . . . just some bread crumbs, grated onion, horseradish, lemon juice, beaten egg, garlic and some seasoning.  You could also add finely chopped celery if you wanted to for added colour and crunch.

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As you can see it's a lovely meaty tuna burger . . . delicious.  I like to melt a slice of cheese over top and serve them in a toasted bun with some mayo (I like the lemon but wasabi would also be great!) sliced tomato and shredded lettuce.   One of these makes a nice hearty lunch, or with the addition of some oven chips or pasta or potato salad, a nice and simple supper!  This is a deliciously different way of getting your Fish for Friday!

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 *Tuna Burgers*
Makes 4 

Quite simply delicious.  I can say no more.

2 (225g) jars of solid albacore tuna in spring water, drained (2 (5 oz) tins) and flaked
60g of fine dry seasoned bread crumbs (1/2 cup)
2 large free range eggs, beaten
1 clove fresh garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 small onion, peeled and grated
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 tsp celery salt
1 1/2 tsp prepared horseradish
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 slices of your favourite cheese
olive oil for frying

To serve:
4 toasted sesame seed buns, split butter and toast under the grill
4 TBS lemon mayonnaise
2 tomatoes thinly sliced
a handful of finely shredded lettuce    

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Drain the tuna really well and flake it into a bowl.   Add the bread crumbs, beaten egg, garlic, onion, lemon juice, celery salt, horseradish and black pepper.   Shape into 4 nice flat patties, about 1/2 inch thick.

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet.  (About once around the skillet) Once it is hot add the tuna burgers.  Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned.  Carefully flip over and 
toast on the second side in like manner, again for five minutes.  Place a slice of your favourite cheese on top of each.  (I used onion and chive double Gloucester)  Pop on a lid and remove from the 
burner.  Let the cheese melt.

Top the bottoms of each toasted bun with some mayonnaise, the shredded lettuce and a couple slices of tomato. Place the tuna burger, cheese side up on top.  Cover with the toasted top 
half of the bun and serve.  Delicious!     


Note:  The cheese slices I used on these were a delicious Double Gloucester with Onion and Chives.  A Pepper Jack would be pretty tasty too!  

Gloucester is a traditional, semi-hard cheese which has been made in Gloucestershire, England, since the 16th century, at one time made only with the milk of the once nearly extinct Gloucester cattle. There are two types of Gloucester cheese: Single and Double; both are traditionally made from milk from Gloucestershire breed cows farmed within the English county of Gloucestershire. Both types have a natural rind (outer layer) and a hard texture, but Single Gloucester is more crumbly, lighter in texture and lower in fat. Double Gloucester is allowed to age for longer periods than Single, and it has a stronger and more savoury flavour. It is also slightly firmer.
Marie Rayner
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Barbecued Brisket

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I've noticed a lot of this ready made in the shops recently.  Charging at a premium price, for what looks to be a very small piece of meat.  By the time you bought enough to serve your family, it would cost a small fortune.   Why buy ready made when it's so easy to make at home, and probably much tastier too!  

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It does take a bit of planning as you need to rub the meat with the spice rub on the evening prior to cooking.   The meat then marinates overnight in this mixture.  The next morning you simply place it into the slow cooker with some barbecue sauce and Worcestershire and let the slow cooker do all the hard work.  

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This leaves you free to do whatever you want all day, free from worry, as dinner is cooking itself in the slow cooker.  Of course if you don't have a slow cooker, you can simply pop it all into a casserole dish and cook it in a very slow oven for the same amount of time.  I would suggest  a temperature of 150*C/300*F.  Do check it from time to time though, just to make sure it's not burning or going dry.  

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In any case by the end of the day you will be rewarded with fork tender beef in a lovely sauce, perfect for shredding and spooning out onto toasted buns.  I like to top mine with sweet pickled hot peppers and bake a few oven chips on the side.  Salad is also nice on the plate, just so you get some of your five a day you know.  We all need those!  Enjoy!  

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*Barbecued Brisket*
Serves 8

Deliciously tender beef brisket, perfect shredded and piled onto toasted buns. Plan ahead as the meat marinates over night.  The next day is a dawdle however as
you just pop it into the slow-cooker and let it go.  

1 TBS dried thyme leaves
1 TBS sweet paprika
2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 pounds of beef brisket, unroll and trim off any fat, 
discarding the fat.
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 bottle of barbecue Sauce (about 1 1/2 cups)
(I like the honey one)

Mix together all of the spices in a small bowl.  Rub them into the brisket, covering it completely.  Place it into a plastic food bag and tie shut.  Place into the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning whisk the barbecue sauce and Worcestershire sauce together in the bottom of a slow cooker. Place the beef on top.  Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10
hours, until the meat is fork tender.  Shred and serve piled onto toasted buns as desired.
Marie Rayner
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A Delicious Soup for a Rainy Day


We've had some really miserable rainy dull days this week.   With the rain comes cooler temperatures and I have really been struggling to keep from turning the heat on.  I don't want to have to spend the extra money on heat if I can help it, especially at this time of year!

I am really enjoying  The Froothie Optimum 9400 Blender  which I was sent a few weeks back. It has really been making short work of all of the blending and blitzing in my kitchen, and it especially shines when it comes to make something as delicious as a smooth and creamy soup like this Honeyed Tomato Soup.  It takes hardly any time at all to use.  I am really loving it.  

*Honeyed Tomato Soup*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

A deliciously simple tomato soup, slightly sweetened with honey. I find the honey helps the tomatoes from being too acidic. It just tastes wonderful. Who would guess that is is low in fat!

2 (390g) pouched of chopped Italian tomatoes with onions and garlic (about 4 cups)
2 ribs of celery chopped
splash of white wine
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 TBS runny honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
250ml of skimmed evaporated tinned milk (1 1/4 cup)
250ml of 2% milk (1 1/4 cup)

Place the tomatoes, celery, white wine, sage and rosemary into a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Immediately reduce the heat to a low simmer. Stir in the honey and season to taste with some salt and black pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the celery is soft. Blitz until smooth with a stick blender if you have it, or very carefully in a regular blender. Alternately you can put it through a moulee. Return to the heat. Whisk in most of the tinned milk, reserving a bit for a garnishing. Whisk in the milk. Heat through. Ladle out into 4 heated soup bowls. Drizzle a bit of the reserved tinned milk on top and drag through it with a toothpick to make a lovely swirl.  

I am really loving having this new toy to play with.  I am looking forward to creating a lot of new things with it, especially with the summer months coming up.  I see lots of tasty fruit smoothies, salad dressings, sauces, etc.  This little baby is going to get a lot of use for sure!  

To find out more about this beautiful machine do check out the Froothie Homepage.   To find out more about the specifications of it and just what it can do,  remember it's not just a blender.
Of course if you are as impressed as I am with what I have done with this machine you can just buy one now.
With a one month trial, money back guarantee which includes return postage costs from the UK, you can't lose!

I am going to try making mayonnaise in it this week, so watch this space!
Marie Rayner
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Chicken Lazone

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This is a recipe that I have seen kicking around the internet for years which I have always wanted to make. It always sounded simple and delicious, and of course you know that my main criteria for cooking here at home is simple and delicious!   I can be rather lazy when it comes to cooking.   Quick, easy and delicious works for me!  Don't get me wrong.  I can do complicated  with my eyes closed . . .  but why???  If I can find a short cut which will get me the same results.  I'm taking it.

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And you really couldn't get much simpler than this actually . . . chicken mini fillets (Or chicken tenders as they are called in North America) dusted with a tasty mix of spices, browned in butter (*slurp!) and then simmered in cream until done. (**Double slurp!)   Yes . . .  I am also somewhat of a glutton.

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There is a little tendon which lays on the bottom side of these mini chicken fillets which I always remove.  I don't like the texture of it in my chicken.  It can make them a bit tough if you leave it in.  It's not all that difficult to remove. You can see it quite easily, it's very visible.  Just lay your chicken piece, underside up on a cutting board and firmly grip the end of the tendon with your left thumb and forefinger and then using a very sharp knife start to slide it down the of the tendon, chivvying the knife against the tendon without cutting through  . . . Once you have it all loosened, just throw it away!  

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Then it's as simple as just mixing the spices and rubbing them into the chicken pieces and browning them, then pouring on the cream.   Talk about big time flavour for very little effort!  You will love this.  I know we sure did!    I serve it simply with some steamed new potatoes (so good this time of year) and haricot verts.   Delicious!

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*Chicken Lazone*
Serves 4

I am not sure where this chicken recipe comes from, but I do know that it is delicious and so simple to make.  Serve it with pasta or potatoes.   It's so easy to make
that it is sure to become a family favourite!  This version is lower in fat than the original, but still just as tasty!

2 pounds mini chicken filets (Chicken tenders)
450ml of single cream (2 cups half and half)
3 TBS butter, divided
For the seasoning mix:
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp mild chili powder (Don't use the hot!)
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
(Note these are not salts!)    

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Mix together all of the seasonings.  Note there is only 1/2 tsp salt and they are garlic and onion powders, not salts.  (I cannot stress this enough!)   Take your mini chicken filets and remove the tendon which you will find on the underside.  Grab the end of it firmly between your finger and thumb, and using a sharp paring knife, chivvy and scrape it gently  along the tendon until the tendon is removed.  Discard the tendons.  Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over the chicken pieces, patting it onto all sides.

Melt 2 TBS of the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Once it begins to foam add the chicken tenders in a single layer, and brown them well on once side for about 4 minutes, then flipping them over and continuing to cook for a further 4 minutes.   Pour the cream  into the pan.  Lower the heat and allow the sauce to simmer and thicken for about 5 to 7 minutes.   Whisk in the butter.   Serve the chicken and sauce over pasta or with potatoes as desired.
Marie Rayner
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Stove Top Spaghetti

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Invariably, if you are like me, the beginning of the week finds me wondering what I can do with the leftovers from the weekend roast dinner.  I do often make a hash or pot pies, and sometimes sandwiches . . .  but every so often I like to shake things up a bit and do something different.

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This week I had a craving for spaghetti.  I know the Toddster hates  dislikes pasta intensely, but this pasta loving heart of mine just has to fill the craving from time to time.  I remembered something which I used to make when my kids were growing up that they always liked.  Stove Top Spaghetti dinner.  And I do confess . . . I always enjoyed it too.

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I often used leftover roast beef or pork in this, but you could brown some ground beef and turkey in equal amounts and use that instead.   I don't think there would be any complaints either way.

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It's a delicious way of disguising leftovers in such a way that the people you are serving it to forget completely that it's leftovers they are eating!  You get to use up everything.  They enjoy it.  It's win/win all around!

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You get a delicious sauce that the pasta actually cooks in, giving it even more flavour, chock full of lovely chunks of roasted meat . . .  with only one cooking dish to wash at the end of it.  Of course slathering it with lots of cheese and serving it with garlic bread also adds to the curb  appeal of this economical time saving meal. My Mondays are always super busy and if I don't have to spend a lot of time putting together supper, then that's always a bonus!   A salad on the side makes this complete.

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*Stove Top Spaghetti*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

I created this to use up leftover roast beef, but you can use browned ground beef, or turkey if you wanted to instead.

Makes a little go a long way and it's delicious! 
335ml of beef stock (1 1/2 cups) 1 small jar of marinara sauce (1 1/2 cups) 1/2 tsp dried basil 1/2 tsp dried oregano 1/2 tsp onion powder 1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and black pepper to taste
splash of hot pepper sauce 1 bay leaf 1/2 pound of uncooked spaghetti noodles, broken into bits 1 cup chopped leftover roast beef or browned ground beef or turkey a handful of grated mixed mozzarella and cheddar cheese finely grated Parmesan cheese

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Put the beef broth and spaghetti sauce in a large skillet ong with the seasonings and the broken spaghetti.  Stir to coat the pasta well.

Bring to the boil, then reduce  to a simmer, cover and cook on low for about 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times.  Stir in the cooked meat and cover again.

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Let it cook for a further 5 minutes or so to heat through, adding a further 110ml (1/2 cup) of water if need be. Remove the pan from the stove.

Cover with the cheeses.  Place lid on for another 5 minutes to melt the cheese and serve.
Marie Rayner
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Almond Cake with a Rosewater & Lemon Syrup

I was recently sent a few flavour extracts from the Nielsen-Massey Vanillas company to use in my baking.   I am no stranger to the Nielsen Massey line.  I have a drawer containing quite a few different ones, and of course their line of Vanilla products have been a favourite of mine for a number of years now.

Their most famous product is their Vanilla extract.  Started in 1907 in the United States, this family-owned business has gone from strength to strength. Want to know the secret of their super high quality? They use a cold-extraction process, slowly and gently extracting every bit of flavour from the beans, without harming them using heat.    They also have quite a variety of other pure extracts, including coffee, almond, chocolate, lemon, orange, peppermint, orange blossom and rose water.    I was sent a bottle each of the orange blossom, vanilla and rose water.

Like I said, I use the Vanilla all the time so there is nothing really new about that, but this was my first time using Rose Water or Orange Blossom Water.  If you are a fan of turkish delight you would already be familiar with the flavour of Rose Water as that is the predominant flavour in that lovely sweet treat.  

Sweet and fragrant Rose Water is an elegant steam distillate of rose petals. Its delicate floral notes are perfect in Middle Eastern, Indian and Greek cuisine and offer a wonderful accent to delicate French pastry glazes and creams. In addition to pairing well with vanilla, cream, white and dark chocolate and mild cheeses such as Brie or cream cheese, this water blends nicely with fruits like strawberry, raspberry, lychee and mango. Rose Water can also elevate sweetened hot water or milk and is a delightful way to flavour sugars and cookies.

I did a search on line and came up with a recipe by Sophie Grigson for a delicate sounding Almond Cake with a Rosewater and Lemon Syrup.   It almost sounded Greek with its flavours and of course the texture of the cake very much reminded me of a special Greek Cake that one of my friends back home always made.  I fell in love with it the first time she made it, and I fell in love with this cake as well.

It's incredibly moist . . . and rich.   You start it in a cold oven, which means that the outside surfaces bake first, leaving the centre with an almost damp and incredibly squidgy texture, all of which is greatly enhanced by the Rosewater and Lemon Syrup which you spoon over it as it is cooling . . .  a bit at a time so that it soaks into the cake, adding to it's wonderful depth of flavour and richness.

The syrup had an almost perfumed quality, not at all unpleasant in the least.   The lemon and rosewater went together beautifully.  I simply dusted the top of the cake with a bit of icing sugar to serve.   I thought a nice dollop of  crème fraiche or Greek yogurt would go perfectly with this, and . . . quite simply, it did.

*Almond Cake with a Rosewater & Lemon Syrup*

A deliciously moist and different cake.  Very easy to make.  The cake is started in a cold oven, so no need to preheat.

For the cake:
45g slightly stale bread crumbs (3/4 cup)
200g caster sugar (1 cup)
100g ground almonds (1 cup plus 3 TBS)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
200ml sunflower oil (13 1/2 TBS)
4 large free range eggs
the finely grated zest of one unwaxed lemon

For the syrup:
100ml water (3 1/2 fluid ounces)
the juice of one lemon
85g caster sugar (7 TBS)
1 1/2 TBS rose water   

Butter an 8 inch round cake tin and line the base with paper.  Set aside.  

Mix together the bread crumbs, sugar, almonds and baking powder.   Beat together the oil and eggs and add them to the dry mixture, beating them in well.   

Stir in the lemon zest and pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin.  Put the cake tin in a cold oven.  Set the oven temperature to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.   

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the cake is a nice brown colour and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before 
removing to a plate.

Make the syrup while the cake is cooling.   Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan.  Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Allow to simmer for 3 minutes.   

Pierce the surface of the warm cake all over with a skewer.  Spoon the syrup over top.   Allow the cake to cool completely, spooning the excess syrup over top again from time to time until it is completely absorbed.

Serve the cake cut into wedges along with some plain Greek yogurt, creme fraiche, mascarpone cheese or clotted cream.  

  We really, really enjoyed this cake and we were very fond of the flavour from the rose water in the syrup.  I think it would be very nice in cupcake frostings for tea parties, or in delicate Madeleine cakes or friands.

Watch this space!  

Many thanks to the folks at Nielsen-Massey and Joanne  for sending these to me.   In a few days I'll show you what I have done with the Orange Blossom Water!
Marie Rayner
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Doughnut Muffins

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There are a lot of doughnut muffin recipes floating about, and I have made them quite often in the past, but this recipe here today is probably the BEST one I have ever baked.  I kid you not.  

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I pulled this recipe out of an Easy Cook Magazine last year with the idea in mind to bake it one day, and I just got around to trying it today.  I quickly found myself wondering why I had waited so long!  

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The other recipes I have baked for doughnut muffins have had a tendency to be a bit on the dry side in all truth, and then you had to roll them in  butter before rolling them in cinnamon sugar.   A tad bit faffy . . .  

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Not only are these muffins incredibly moist and buttery . . .  but the day after you have baked them, they are still moist and buttery.   There is no cinnamon in the recipe . . .  just a bit of freshly grated nutmeg in the batter.  

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There is also no rolling in butter.  You just roll them around in a bowl of sugar while they are still quite warm and that's it.   Easy peasy.  You can also very easily cut the recipe in half if you don't want to bake a whole dozen, and they freeze beautifully!  You could use any jam flavour you want in these, but I highly recommend using raspberry jam.  It's gorgeous!  

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 *Doughnut Muffins*
Makes 12 muffins 
These muffins are very much like your favourite cake style doughnuts.  Filled with jam.  Delicious.   

140g of caster sugar (3/4 cup)
200g plain flour (scant 1 1/2 cups)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
pinch salt
100ml natural yoghurt (scant 1/2 cup)
2 large free range eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
140g melted buttter (1/2 cup plus 2 TBS)
raspberry jam
extra caster sugar for rolling  

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Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.  Butter a 12 hole muffin pan really well, or line with paper liners.  

Sift the flour into a bowl along with the soda, salt and nutmeg.  Whisk together the yogurt, vanilla and beaten eggs.   Tip into the dry mixture along with the melted butter.  

Mix together just to combine.  Divide two thirds of the mixture between the muffin cups.   Top each with 1 tsp raspberry jam  in the centre.  Cover with the remaining batter.

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes until risen, golden brown and the tops spring back when lightly touched.   Leave to cool in the pan for five minutes before lifting out of the tin and rolling  in some extra caster sugar to coat. 

Allow to cool prior to eating.   

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I really hope you will give these a go.  If you do, I think you will be quick to agree with me that these are the absolute BEST doughnut muffins ever!
Marie Rayner
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