Category: Food

It’s only a Lemon Possett but I like it…

Suddenly Spring is here and it’s nearly Easter! My little man is gorgeous but he’s quite the time waster! Between playing with him, snuggling him and the actual job of caring for him (not to mention the amount of cleaning and laundry he contributes to) I don’t seem to have time for much else!

We have family visiting for the Easter weekend which I’m really looking forward to. I like spending holidays with family and it seems all the more appropriate now I have a little one – I want him to know and cherish his extended family, so it’s good to start early.

I’ve been menu planning this week and chose a rather drizzly day to try out some recipes.

I decided it was time I tried an old favourite – Lemon Possett. I first heard of this in an episode of The Box of Delights. After an icy dip in a river, one of the children asks the maid if she can make him a possett to eat. Having done some research it seems the possett has changed a little over the years. It is definitely vintage – dating back to medieval times when it was a warm milky drink, whereas today it’s somehow become a smooth creamy dessert.

It’s a very easy thing to make. Just three ingredients, only a few minutes of preparation – and allow a few hours to chill of course. I used James Martin’s recipe (http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/lemonpossetwithlemon_85812) but there doesn’t seem to be much variation in methods. There are a few different flavours – I plan to try the orange and the rhubarb versions!

I served it in my Woodsware Iris teacups with a little shortbread biscuit on the side. Really rather pleased with the overall look. It would be a very good dinner party dessert as it can be prepared the day before, the flavour is lovely and the silky texture makes it feel like a luxurious desssert even though it’s quick and easy to make. For some reason, light, citrussy flavours seem apt for Spring, making it a perfect addition to my Easter meal.

It is with a menu planning head on I say:

It’s only Vintage but I like It!

It’s only Bread and Butter pudding but I like it…

Ok, so it’s not a luxury pudding, it’s not stylish, it doesn’t even have a fancy name, but I think it does have merits. It makes good use of a staple most of us have languishing in our cupboards, it is warm, stodgy and filling and it quivers and squeaks gently on removal from the oven. It’s been a sturdy, thrifty classic bake for many a year now.

The recipe I’m sharing today is the slightly sophisticated relative to the basic bread and butter pud. We always just made it with milk and eggs when I was a child, but this one contains a whole carton of cream. We just had sugar and raisins for flavour whereas this recipe adds the zest of an orange to cut through the richness of all that cream. This is how it looked pre-oven:

It is Mary Berry’s Mother’s recipe ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mary_berrys_mothers_97161 ) and who am I to argue with such a lady? It was a lovely rich alternative to my usual recipe and the addition of orange zest was delicious. I sprinkled light brown sugar on top, which formed a nice crust.

The Dr and I disagreed on whether it needed to be served with custard. I said no, because it had all that cream and those eggs in it, surely forming something akin to custard? I always feel it’s a pudding that can stand on it’s own two feet without accompaniment. What do you serve yours with?

It is with a dessert debate still raging I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Christmas Cake but I like it…

I’m not sure if it’s too early or not but I made my Christmas cake this week. Last year I made a 20cm fruit cake using a Mary Berry recipe. It was lovely but rather bigger than I anticipated (I’m terrible at judging sizes!) and most of it ended up in the staff room come January. Why does no one like fruit cake?

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This year I’ve gone for a Delia Smith recipe ( http://www.deliaonline.com/information-centre/scaling-up-cake-recipes ) that I have scaled to fit in a 6 inch tin. It will be a teeny cake but that’s OK. Better that than most of it go to waste.

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Last year in the January sales I bought these cake decorations:

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We loved the Raymond Briggs books The Snowman and Father Christmas when we were little so these were a must for me. They’re a nice quality ceramic so will hopefully be an investment and can be reused year after year.

I need to spend a few weeks feeding my cake spirits before I marzipan and ice it. This year it’ll all get eaten!

It is with a tablespoon and a bottle of value brandy in hand I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only Eve’s Pudding but I like it…

I don’t have any fruit trees in my garden, which is something I plan to remedy in the new year, until then I rely on the kindness of others for my Autumn fruit. I’ve been lucky enough this year to be given some by a student at school and by a work colleague. My challenge now is using them up!

As much as I love crumble, I like to vary my apple recipes. This is one I found on BBCGoodFood and one I have tried to make previously without success! http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/252606/eves-pudding

Eve’s Pudding is an apple based dish with a sponge topping, named after the Biblical Eve who tempted Adam with an apple! The first time I made it (years ago) my batter was quite thin, it just spread out and seeped into the apples. Not so with this recipe! I like the fact it’s made with soft brown sugar – it adds some depth and richness. It smelled fab as it came out of the oven and the apples hadn’t gone completely mushy which I quite liked! It made a nice big dish of pudding which we shared with my sister and there’s still some left for tomorrow. Or at least it’s in the fridge calling to me… It might still be there tomorrow!

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It is with some temptation I say:

It’s only Vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Crumble but I like it…

My sister doesn’t like crumble. She refers to it alternately as ‘poor man’s pie’ or ‘sugary grit’. I for one think she’s missing a trick. I also think she doesn’t do a lot of baking – how can you not love a desert that takes minutes to prepare? No making of pastry, then letting it cool, then rolling it out, trimming it and hoping it’ll bake through when it makes it to the oven. Crumble is fail safe, quick and I always forget how tasty it is.

I’m lucky to have been offered cooking apples from one of my pupil’s gardens for the second year in a row. We enjoyed our first apple crumble of the season this weekend and we’ll polish off a few more before we head into the festive period I’m sure.

If you’ve never made a crumble then shame on you. Here are the ingredients and the method courtesy of Be-Ro – have a go. I guarantee ‘sugary grit’ will be the last words on your lips…

Ingredients

fruit
50 g (2 oz) margarine
100 g (4 oz) Be-Ro Self Raising Flour
50 g (2 oz) sugar

Method

1. Heat oven to 190ºC, 375ºF, Gas Mark 5.
2 Place sweetened fresh fruit or canned fruit in ovenproof dish.
3 Rub fat into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
4. Add sugar, mix thoroughly and spread evenly over the fruit. Bake for about 30 minutes until fruit is cooked and top is golden.

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It is with Autumn deja vu I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Fruit Cake but I like it…

This isn’t a #neverbakeditbefore challenge because it’s something I’ve baked many times, just not for many years.

I asked my Mum to send me the recipe for boiled fruit cake from her Be-Ro book. I have a Be-Ro book but the recipes change over the years and this one has been omitted for some reason.

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If if you can’t quite make that out here it is:

12oz dried fruit

4oz butter or margarine

4oz sugar

1/4 pint of water

8 oz self raising flour

1 egg

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From then on its pretty easy, just boil up everything apart from the egg and flour for about 20 minutes.

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You end up with a nice glossy looking, rich buttery pan of dried fruit. You can use any dried fruit you want, and throw in a handful of nuts too if you like. I also add a teaspoon of mixed spice. It’s a nice recipe to tailor to suit your tastes. Let it cool, mix in the egg and flour and then pop into a 6 or 7 inch round tin.

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My oven is a little on the fierce side, plus I put it in the round tin the recipe recommends, whereas Mum always did it in a loaf tin and it was a little more moist that way I think. Either way, I made a batch of scones and it all combined to make a very nice Sunday tea with a round of egg sandwiches. Low on effort but high on taste!

It is with the sound of bubbling fruit still in my ears I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Whoopie Pie but I like it…

I had some friends coming over and thought I’d use it as an excuse to take on a #neverbakeditbeforechallenge! I had been meaning to have a go at Whoopie Pies for ages and when I found this simple but tasty sounding recipe   (http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/chocolate_whoopies_67418 ) on BBC Good Food I knew today was the day…

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Ingredients
125g/4½oz butter
150g/5½oz chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids, plus extra for melting (optional)
225g/8oz sugar
3 free-range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g/8¾oz flour
30g/1¼oz cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
18 marshmallows
To serve
Cocoa powder
Icing sugar

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Method
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. (Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water.)
Whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla together in a separate bowl then fold in the chocolate mixture.
Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together, then fold into the chocolate and egg mixture.
Place tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking tray (the mixture should make 36 biscuits) and bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes.
Remove from the oven and set aside half of the biscuits on a cooling rack. Turn the remaining biscuits over and place a marshmallow on top of each. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes, or until the marshmallows have softened.
Remove from the oven and set aside on a cooling rack to cool slightly. Press the cooled biscuits on top.
Optional: Melt 100g/3½oz extra chocolate and pour this over the cookies, then set aside to cool.

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I did use a really good 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate and the cake came out tasting nice and rich. The marshmallow filling was very messy – I was covered in marshmallow and so was my kitchen! I think I need to let it cool a little more before sandwiching next time! The reviews were unanimously good – the Dr (my husband) isn’t a big fan of chocolate cake but he nabbed the last one and declared them delicious!

Whoopie pies have a long history in the USA, with several places claiming to be the birthplace of the treat. They’re widely acknowledged to have been created by the Amish community and show up in cookery books from the early 20s onwards. The most intriguing thing about them though is surely the name – originally they were made from leftover cake batter and on finding them in their lunch bags Amish children would cry ‘Whoopie!”.

Well, I’m sold and I’ll definitely be using that recipe again. I may also have a trawl for other kinds of Whoopie Pie. I hear chocolate chip is good, red velvet looks great or maybe something gingery? The sky is the limit!

It is with a new research task on my mind I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only Seed Cake but I like it…

The funny thing is, I think I first heard of Seed Cake when I was reading The Hobbit many years ago. When Bilbo Baggins’ house is invaded by lots of visitors at the beginning of the story one of them asks if he has any Seed Cake. It’s a very old British recipe, can be traced back at least as far as the 15th century and was very popular in Victorian times.imageThe idea intrigued me and I looked up some recipes. When I found out that the seed involved was caraway seed I wasn’t sure – I couldn’t envisage it working as a flavour in a cake. Caraway seeds have a slightly minty smell, neither sweet nor savoury and quite musky, with a strong aroma.
imageI used a Nigel Slater recipe (http://theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/may/02/nigel-slater-classic-recipe-seed-cake) he says just to use a teaspoon of seeds, enough to gently perfume the cake – other recipes I looked at suggested more and I think I’m going with Nigel on this one.

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The cake reminds me a lot of Madeira cake – both recipes have ground almonds in them, although seed cake lacks the lemon you get with a Madeira and it doesn’t rise as much. The seeds do give the cake a gentle perfumed flavour which is actually very appealing. It has a nice texture due to the ground almonds, a golden crust and the smatter of caraway seeds add a tiny crunch. I’m not sure it’ll replace Madeira cake, which has become a favourite of ours, but the Seed cake is a quirky addition to my repertoire – nice for a vintage picnic maybe? I can see why Bilbo and his mates packed it for their long quest…

It is with a plan for a picnic I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only ‘Bubble and Squeak’ but I like it…

I know it’s not glamorous, or trendy or even expensive but I find there to be something incredibly comforting in a simple bowl of bubble and squeak.

For the uninitiated – maybe you were raised by wolves? – bubble and squeak is basically leftover potatoes and vegetables, mashed up and gently fried until crispy and golden. It is often served after a roast dinner – using up remaining vegetables, and is a staple at Christmas time in the days following Christmas, when it is delicious served alongside all those cold meats that hang around for weeks!

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It was served a lot during World War Two when rationing meant families had to work hard to make small amount of food last across several meals and very little went in the bin. I find that kind of thinking very appealing and hate to throw any foodstuffs away – I’m always looking for recipes that used the leftover, the dogeared and the slightly stale.

I love my bubble and squeak with a big dollop of brown sauce and veggie sausages. How do you take yours?

It is with a thought for the wolf-raised I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!

It’s only a Wedding Cake but I like it…

Inspiration for my cake is probably down to one lady : Nikki McWilliams. I’ve loved Nikki’s biscuity goodies since I found her on Folksy several years ago. Since then she’s gone pro with the biscuit empire and her range of goodies has increased, tempting me each time.

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I love her range because it takes me back to a time when a custard cream could solve most any problem. Grazed knee? I prescribe a Bourbon biscuit. Wasp sting? Jammie Dodger. And so on.

People pay crazy money for wedding cakes, so as a keen baker I pretty soon began trying to figure out if I was up to making my own. Mother in Law Barbara – who’s an amazing baker – was knocking up a three tiered beauty for her neighbour’s daughter when we were up North at Christmas and she assured me I could definitely make my own. She lent me a cake tin, gave me an icing smoothing tool and talked me through the finer points of buttercream.

I found this recipe on BBC Good Food and it had lots of good ratings and tips on how to make it. I felt confident I could make and ice three cakes – but what about the decoration?

Then comes my friend Becca, who bought me these British biscuit cutters for Christmas because they “Screamed Polly at me!”

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The minute I saw them I knew my design was ready to go!

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I think I found the cake the most stressful part of the wedding! It had to be left until close to the day and I am not a last minute person. The bottom tier chocolate cake was an enormous mixture and climbed out of the tin, the middle lemon layer did not rise anywhere near enough to be sliced into three and the little top layer fruit cake seemed a bit stodgy despite extra time in the oven. Then I had to ice all three layers and hope I didn’t mess it up too much.

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The cookie cutters were great and the detailing was perfect. I used Renshaw’s icing for the bourbons and it had a lovely rich chocolatey taste.

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The design in my head was very simple, just a layer of biscuit shapes around the bottom of each tier and a specially customised cushion from Nikki McWilliams on the top.

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That bottom layer of chocolate cake was so dense that those two tiers alone weighed a tonne! I had to enlist help to carry it to the car…

I delivered it to the venue, explained how to fit it together and handed over my special topper.

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Here it is, beautifully captured by Flora Westbrook!  That one wonky Bourbon upsets me – it wasn’t wonky when it left my house, it’s a good job I’m not a perfectionist! I finished my top tier with little hearts and a gold bourbon. I love Nikki’s cushion – it sets it off perfectly and brings in our new surname perfectly!

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We chopped it up and it was served as dessert – I was determined it was going to get eaten given all the headaches it had caused me! Wedding cake is so expensive and seems so often to go to waste. I had good reviews and the fruit cake in particular had a beautiful flavour. I’m proud of it and for a first attempt at anything like that I think it went pretty well.

It is with a grateful nod to the cake Gods I say:

It’s only vintage but I like it!