Friday, 9 March 2007

Apple chocolate cake

Chocolate and fruit is a classic but the idea of apple and chocolate was intriguing to me so when I had the urge to bake something and a glut of apples I thought I'd try this recipe out. It's from the Australian Woman's Weekly title "Cakes and Slices Cookbook". I was introduced to the AWW cookbooks whilst at uni and they are all really good. I've never had a recipe from them that I didn't like.

The best thing about this cake is that you don't have to do any work - well, you peel the apples and grease the tin, but in reality you throw it all in the food processor and flick the switch! You don't even have to sift the flour. The butter and eggs do need to be at room temp though.

The toddler is still a bit hit and miss when it comes to cake, having been deprived of it for most of the last 3 years, but he's definitely enjoyed this one. I like knowing that if I am letting him eat cake then at least I know what's gone into it.

I didn't ice this but I'll add the icing instructions anyway.

185g butter
1 and 1/4 cups castor sugar (I used golden castor)
3 eggs
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/3 cup water
2 apples peeled and quartered
2 cups self raising flour

1 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa
1 teaspoon soft butter
1 tbsp (approx) milk

Grease a 23cm square slab pan. Line base with paper and grease.
Heat oven to 180/gas mark 4
Combine butter, sugar, eggs, cocoa, bicarb, water, apple and flour in a processor. Process until mixture is smooth (there will be small bits of apple still visible but the overall texture is smooth)
Pour into prepared pan
Bake for about 1 hour
Stand for five mins before turning on to a wire rack to cool
Spread cold cake with iciing

Sift icing sugar and cocoa into a small heatproof bowl. Stir in the butter and enough milk to make a stiff paste. Stir over hot water until icing is spreadable.


Salsicce con lenticcie

This is a staple in our house now since I came across the recipe on Damsels. It's a really versatile dish and I've yet to find anyone who hasn't enjoyed it! It reheats easily and is perfect family food - even the baby loves to sit and pick the lentils and carrot pieces from her highchair tray. I ususally serve this with some warm crusty bread to mop up all the garlic-y sauce and there's always a clamour for seconds when I make this.

I only had about half the amount of dried puy lentils I needed so added a tin about 20 minutes before the end which worked fine. Puy lentils are also sold as lentilles vertes and are reasonably easy to get hold of. Unlike red lentils, they retain a nice crunchy texture when cooked.

Ingredients (serves 6)
1 T vegetable oil
130g cubed pancetta
2 packs good quality sausages
2 onions, chopped
1 large carrot, diced finely
4 large garlic cloves chopped
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
300g puy lentils
850ml hot chicken stock
1T white wine vinegar
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 T chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in large casserole or sautee pan with lid. Add pancetta and sausages and sizzle for around 10 mins until they are nicely brown and sticky.
Remove the sausages to a plate.
Add onions, carrot and garlic to the pan and cook for 3 - 4 mins until the onions soften.
Return the sausages to the pan and add the rosemary, lentils, stock, vinegar and tomatoes, then season.
Bring to the boil and simmer rapidly for 5 mins.
Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 45 mins, stirring every so often until the lentils are tender.


Saturday, 3 March 2007

Banana and chocolate chip oatmeal muffins

Once again, we've been offline as we were hit by a second run of illness. Well, only the husband was affected but it felt as if we were all ill! So it's been another week of simple food hence I haven't had any inspired dishes to share.

Today we had a glut of dying bananas so I thought I'd make some muffins. I like this recipe as adding the oats makes me feel as if I'm being healthy - and in some way counteracts the chocolate! I managed to mismeasure the bicarb and baking powder so had to make one and a half times the recipe - this meant there was enough mixture for 12 large and 12 mini muffins so the toddler was allowed a mini muffin after supper tonight.....

Ingredients (makes 12 full size or 24 mini muffins):

10oz/280g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large ripe bananas (about 1 pound/450g with skins)
3-4 oz/85-110g white granulated sugar (I use golden gran and go for about 95g)
1 beaten egg
2 fl oz/60ml milk or water
3 fl oz/90 ml veg oil or 3oz/85g butter, melted
2-3 oz/60-85g walnuts or plain choc chips (optional)
If adding rolled oats, reduce the flour to 8oz/225g. Add 2oz/60g of rolled oats to the wet mixture

Preheat oven to 190-200 degrees c
Sift the flour, baking powder, soda bicarb and salt together. Add choc chips if using.
In another bowl mash bananas. Stir in the sugar, beaten egg, milk or water and oil or butter. Add the oats if using.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir until just combined. Don't overstir - the batter should be lumpy without any dry flour visible
Spoon into prepared muffin tins.
Bake for 20-25 mins until tops are lightly browned and spring back when pressed. For mini muffins bake for 15 mins
I adjust to 13 mins for a fan oven for mini muffins and check at about 18 mins for full size.


Thursday, 22 February 2007

Harissa-spiced chicken with bulghar

First of all, an explanation for my absence. The whole family have been hit by a rather unpleasant virus which left us unable to face food if you catch my drift.... We are just coming out the other side, and to be honest, I'm still not feeling like cooking anything too rich or fancy.

This recipe is from March's Good Food Magazine. I don't usually buy foodie mags but thought I'd give a couple a whirl to get some more inspiration. I think I may think about getting a subscription to one eventually, once I find the one that fits my "groove"!

It was the bulghar wheat in this that made me decide to try it out. My mum is from the Middle East, so pulses and grains are a staple ingredient in all their food. When I was growing up she didn't have access to these sort of ingredients so for a long time I didn't get the chance to eat her wonderful Middle Eastern cooking. Nowadays bulghar wheat, black lentils and chick peas are found virtually anywhere....

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 tbsp harissa paste
4 skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp oil
1 onion, sliced
2 tbsp pine nuts
A handful of ready to eat apricots
300g/10 oz bulghar wheat
600ml/ 1 pt hot chicken stock
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Rub the harissa paste over the chicken.
Heat the oil in a deep non stick pan then fry the chicken for about 3 mins on each side until golden. Remove and set aside
Add the onions and fry gently for 5 mins. Tip in the pine nuts and continue cooking for another few mins until toasted.
Tip in the apricots, bulghar and stock and cover. Cook for about 10 mins until the stock is almost disolved
Return the chicken to the pan re-cover and cook for 5 mins on a low heat until the liqued has been absorbed and the chicken is cooked through.
Fluff up the bulghar with a fork and scatter with the coriander to serve

My chicken pieces needed a bit longer to cook through (after the last week, I didn't want to chance anything!). I added a clove of garlic and some middle eastern spices but it would have been just as nice without. I'll be making this again as everyone devoured it!


Thursday, 15 February 2007

Tagliatelle with spinach, mascarpone and parmesan

Today was manic so I had planned a nice, simple meal which was just as well as I was exhausted - Baby had kept us up last night with vomiting antics..... Hope it wasn't my cooking that had poisoned her.....

This recipe is taken from Jamie's Dinners - in his blurb accompanying this recipe he talks about how it is really suited to toddlers who will happily eat the spinach in this form but reject it in other dishes. I wasn't convinced but thought I'd give it a whirl - once again Jamie's right - Toddler was actually picking off pieces of spinach to eat seperately!!!! Very cute! Baby wasn't so impressed, but she's not been herself.

Unfortunately I didn't have any parmesan left - Husband threw the knuckle out the other night grrrrrr. It was lovely without but would have been really good with it, so I'll be making it again very soon.

Ingredients (serves 4):
455g/1lb tagliatelle or spaghetti
olive oil
2 tsp butter
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 a nutmeg, freshly grated
400g/14oz fresh spinach, washed thoroughly and finely sliced
120ml/4 fl oz double cream
150g/5 oz mascarpone cheese
2 handfuls of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water.
At the same time, in a large frying pan or wok, heat the butter, a drizzle of olive oil, the garlic and the nutmeg. When the butter melts, add the spinach and cook for about 5 mins until it has wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the cream, mascarpone and a small ladle of the cooking water from the pasta. Bring to a simmer and check the seasoning.
Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water then stir it into the spinach sauce. Add the parmesan and stir through. Add the reserved cooking water if needed to loosen the pasta. Check the seasoning and serve.


Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Minky's easy peasy fandabbydosy chocolate cake

This is a recipe gleaned from one of the girls on Damsels. After Husband surprised me with several wonderful Valentine's gifts, including a set of cake tins from Emma Bridgewater it would have been rude not to bake a cake! And what better way to a man's heart than with a chocolate cake....

185g butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
1.5 cups sugar
2 cups plain flour
1 cup cool tap water
3 eggs
2/3 (two thirds) cup Cocoa

Put all ingredients in a bowl (room temp butter cut up into cubes). Mix to combine on low speed. Increase speed to max and mix for 3 mins or until the colour changes (goes slightly lighter). It might look curdled but this doesn't matter.Bake in a moderate oven (170 fan, 180 reg) 1.5 hours in a large tin or 1/2 an hour in 2 sandwich tins (greased and lined).

My Kenwood mixer is currently in storage so I hand mixed this. I started by creaming the butter and sugar together and then threw the rest of the ingredients in and stirred like crazy! It was the best chocolate cake I've had in ages and I will be making this again and again....


Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

I was meant to be cooking a recipe from Nigel Slater's "Real Food" tonight but popped in to Waitrose on the way home and picked up the latest copy of "Food Illustrated" (only because it was free to me as a John Lewis card holder!). I flicked through it whilst waiting in the queue and came across this recipe - we've all been suffering with malingering colds recently and as garlic is such a good immune system booster I thought I'd give it a bash. Shame about the after effects of so much garlic, especially as it's Valentine's Day tomorrow.....

8 chicken joints (thighs, drumsticks or breasts)
2 red onions, sliced into wedges
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
2 bulbs of garlic, unpeeled but divided into individual cloves
1 lemon, cut into wedges
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
4 tbsp olive oil
150 ml dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees
Place the chicken pieces in a large roasting dish. Scatter the onions, peppers, garlic, lemon wedges and thyme. Drizzle over half the oil and season. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 30 mins
Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 30 mins
Pour the wine into the pan, trying not to wet the chicken skin and drizzle the skin with the remaining oil. Cook for a further 15 mins.

We served this with couscous and there isn't a morsel left! I'll be doing this regularly...