Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Chocolate Biscuit Refrigerator Cake

When I asked Mum what cake she wanted for her birthday, the answer was instantaneous 'Chocolate Biscuit cake please!'. I'd never made a biscuit fridge cake, and I'd forgotten how much I used to love the taste of it. Remarkably easy to make, without needing half the usual cake ingredients, it was a real winner. You'll be pleased to know that we let the birthday girl have the lion's share, but not without internal struggle. Just goes to show that this delightful cake thrills children of ALL ages.

Adapted from one torn out of Grazia magazine last year, author unknown.
Serves 8

200g Rich Tea Biscuits
70g Maltesers
70g Mini Marshmallows
70g hazelnuts, chopped small
70g pistachio nuts, shelled
70g raisins or other dried fruit
150g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
250g dark chocolate
edible silver glitter, to decorate, optional
small white birds or anything else you fancy to decorate, optional

1. Line a 1lb loaf tin with cling film, making sure to leave extra overhanging the sides.

2. Put the biscuits in a double bag made from 2 plastic bags. Tie the end securely, and then hit the biscuits with a rolling pin, until all are crushed.

3. Pour the crushed biscuits into a large bowl, and then add the sweets, nuts and dried fruit.

4. Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup together in a bain mairie (a heat proof bowl over a pan of just simmering water). Leave to cool for a moment.

5. When cooled a little, carefully stir the melted ingredients into the dry using a wooden spoon.

6.  Once combined, spoon the mixture into the prepared cling filmed loaf tin, and press it down gently to flatten the top evenly.

7. Place in the fridge for 2 hours, until solid.

8. Remove the cake from the tin once set by pulling on the cling film and easing it out with a knife. Turn it out on to a plate, and decorate with edible glitter. I added a couple of white birds I'd found in the local florist - purely for decoration and not to be eaten obviously!

9. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve. This cake slices best when just out of the fridge.


This cake was idly made while listening to the Anthony & The Johnsons album I Am A Bird Now

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Winter Orange & Cinnamon Salad

This lovely refreshing aromatic dessert is simplicity itself. A morrocan style fruit salad, it is something to savour and enjoy while feeling smug about how healthy we've become. I'm going to make the most of this feeling while I can - as February rears its head, tis not too long now before January's healthy eating resolutions fade far away....

Serves 4

3 oranges
1 handful demerara sugar
3 drops orange blossom water
handful of fine gratings cinnamon stick

1. Peel and slice the oranges laterally into thin slices.

2. Place one layer of the orange slices on a plate, and sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon gratings.

3. Add a couple of drops of orange blossom water.

4. Layer the rest of the orange slices ontop, and sprinkle with more sugar, cinnamon, and another drop of orange blossom water.

This winter salad was made while listening to the Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man album 'Out Of Season'

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Spiced Cranberry Upside Down Cake

I was inspired to bake this gorgeous cake when I found some cranberries in the freezer, leftovers from Christmas. Winter will be over before we know it (I'm a deluded optimist I know) and this recipe is the kind of warming rustic fare that works best after a cold brisk walk in the elements. As it cooks it perfumes the house with the darkly sweet aromas of baked spices, orange and cranberry.

Serves 8-10
Adapted from the recipe on the website www.joyofbaking.com. See their recipe here.

for the cranberry topping:
230g fresh cranberries, or frozen and thawed, halved
190g caster sugar
90g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon water
half a teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Turn oven to 180C (160C fan ovens), and grease and line a 20cm round spring form tin. If you're using a tin with a removable base, make sure you place a baking sheet under the cake tin, to catch the drips from the cranberry topping juice.

2. To make the cranberry topping, melt the butter over a low heat. Next add the caster sugar, water, cinnamon, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil.

3. Finally, add the cranberries and stir them into the sauce then pour into base of the tin.

for the cake base:
200g light muscovado sugar
200g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
200g self raising flour
quarter of a teaspoon ground cinnamon
quarter of a teaspoon nutmeg
quarter of a teaspoon ginger
quarter of a teaspoon ground star anise
grated zest of 1 orange
100g ground almonds

4. To make the cake base, cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl.

5. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition.

6. Add a spoonful of flour, and stir into the mixture along with the grated orange zest.

7. Stir in the rest of the flour, followed by the spices and ground almonds. Stir with a wooden spoon gently until just combined.

8. Pour the batter over the cranberry mixture in the baking tin, and bake in the oven for approx 50 minutes, checking at 45. You'll know the cake is done when a skewer comes out of the cake base clean. Remember that the topping at the bottom of the tin will still be sticky.

9. Leave the cake in the tin for 15 minutes, then very carefully turn it upside down to release, and leave to cool a little on a wire rack or plate. Serve warm with yoghurt, cream, or creme fraiche.

This cake was idly baked while listening to John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman 1963 sessions

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Guilt Free: Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nut Free Chocolate Mousse

Let me tell you, I have found this most wonderful recipe by Rachel de Thample for the healthiest EVER chocolate mousse, and I can't wait to share it! All you need is some cocoa powder, a few avocados, a little honey, spice and water.  The days of fattening egg and cream chocolate mousse are officially over. This tastes sweetly fantastic and even counts as 1 of your 5 a day.

By Rachel de Thample, taken from her brilliant cookery book Less Meat More Veg. Everyone interested in eating healthily and enviromentally wisely should have this book. Buy the book on Amazon here.

Serves 2

1 and a half ripe avocados
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons honey
1-2 tablespoons cold water
half a pinch of cinnamon

1. Scoop the avocado flesh out and place it in a food processor or food mixer.

2. Throw in the honey, cocoa powder, water and cinnamon. Blend until combined. Personally I didn't bother to make mine very smooth as I don't have a blender and prefer the rustic look.

3. When smooth enough, taste the mixture and add more cocoa, water and/or honey if you think necessary.

4. Spoon the mousse into 2 glasses or cups, and then chill for an hour.

5. When ready to eat, serve with blueberries or other berries.

This mousse was idly made while listening to The Food Programme on BBC Radio 4.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Gluten Free, Butter Free Rosewater & Citrus Yoghurt Cake

This melt in the mouth gluten free cake has so many good things going for it. Uber-healthy, it has a lovely mediterranean taste, citrus with a hint of rose. Greek yoghurt makes up for the lack of butter, and gives it a delicate, moist crumb. Yum. No need to feel guilty about second helpings.

Adapted from the recipe in Olive Magazine 2007. See the recipe at the bbcgoodfood website here.
Serves 10

200g gluten free self raising flour (Dove's Farm or M&S recommended)
150g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
250g Greek Yoghurt
150ml sunflower oil

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C fan ovens), and grease and line a 20cm round baking tin.

2. Beat the eggs and put to one side.

3. Place the gluten free flour, caster sugar, almonds and lemon zest in a large bowl and stir well.

4. Next, gently add the eggs to the dry ingredients, stirring by hand with a wooden or metal spoon.

5. Gradually spoon in the greek yoghurt, and then the oil. Stir gently by hand until combined.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared baking tin, before placing in the oven to bake for approximately 35-40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes and cover the top with a piece of kitchen foil if it is browning too much (I forgot to do this). You'll know the cake is done when a skewer comes out clean.

7. Leave to cool for 15 mins in the tin, before turning out onto a wire rack or plate to cool further.

for the rosewater syrup:
a half a tablespoon of rosewater
175g caster sugar
juice of half a lemon
150ml water
5 crushed cardamon pods
peel strips of half an orange
juice of a whole orange

8. To make the syrup, warm the sugar, water, lemon and orange juice and crushed cardamon in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

9. Turn the heat up, and bring the mixture to the boil for about 7 minutes until it thickens a little.

10. Cool and then strain the syrup. Stir in the rosewater.

11. While the cake is still warm, prick it all over the top with a skewer, and then pour the syrup into the holes and over the top of the cake. Decorate with rose petals from the garden, and serve with more greek yoghurt.

This cake was idly baked while listening to the Kate Bush album Director's Cut

Friday, 6 January 2012

Idle Chicken Pie

January means one thing for some people: detox. Or if not detox, at least a curbing of recent gluttonous excess. Personally I'm not one for depriving myself, being a firm believer in the possibility of eating healthily while still allowing a little of what I love. Mr Eve, on the other hand, is a passionate detoxer, trying every January to cut down on sugar and alcohol. Which leads us to a slight problem this year, for my idle baking is at odds with his dietary resolutions.

So we've come to a deal: I'll only bake the healthiest sweet foods this month, and I'll also branch out into some savoury baking options too. So first up, the tastiest and simplest Chicken Pie ever, using my old family recipe for a truly scrumptious and wholesome supper.

My mother's recipe.

Serves 4

350g ready made shortcrust pastry, thawed if frozen
1 roasted chicken, or cooked chicken breast and thigh pieces, room temperature
leftover gravy, room temperature
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 large leek
large handful of fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, 1 bay leaf
30g salted butter or margarine
30g plain flour
1 pint whole milk
1 egg white, lightly beaten

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C fan ovens).

2. Finely chop the onion, leek and carrot then fry it gently over a medium heat.

3. Tear the chicken off the bone, cutting it into small pieces.

4. Place the leek, onion and carrot in a good sized pie dish, along with the herbs and chicken meat.

5. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. When melted add the flour, mixing thoroughly, and turn the heat down a little. Once combined, stir in the milk little by little, until well combined.

6. Reheat the gravy before adding it to the white sauce, and mixing well.

7. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and vegetables in the pie dish, until just covering them.

8. Roll out the pastry to about 2cm wider than the pie dish.

9. Place the cut pastry top over the dish and crimp the edges with the tines of a fork dipped in cold water. Decorate the top with pastry leaves or birds from the leftover pastry.

10. Cut a cross in the middle of the pie top to allow the steam to escape as it cooks. Alternatively if you're using a very deep pie dish you could place a china baking bird in the middle of the pie under the slashes.

11. Brush the pastry with beaten egg, before placing in the oven to bake for approxmately 30-35 minutes. Check after 20 minutes - if it is browning too quickly turn the oven down.

12. When baked, take out of the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with wilted spring greens.

This pie was idly baked while listening to the Tom Waits album Bad As Me.