baking, fEAsting, recipes

fEAsting…gathering ingredients

I am starting to feel a sense of urgency now October is over as if I am suddenly hurtling towards Christmas and I need to get a move on as I know in my head that I have far more to do than I will have time to do it in.

In the past I have always had a rule that we would never decorate beyond the end of October after finding ourselves once or twice still decorating on Christmas Eve to finish a room (ah we were young and foolish) but now we are just old and foolish and what are we doing – still decorating –  but I need to get the guest room done no matter what so that we can buy the bed and my mum can come to stay before Christmas.

Decorating aside, I thought it would be a good idea to start checking over the store cupboards and stock up on ingredients for THE cake (you know the one I am referring to), the Nut loaf and any other baking I might do for gifts.  So with list in hand I went to town on Saturday to my favourite little whole food shop that I buy from as it is the only place I can find organic short grain brown rice for puddings, organic lemon juice and organic currants, raisins and sultanas for the Christmas cake – I find each year that currants are so hard to get hold of, maybe some recipes don’t use them.  My recipe has equal amounts of currants, raisins and sultanas – I use the same recipe each year and it is totally organic and totally yummy (despite my attempts to burn it!).

I know for all you ‘frugaliers’ out there that organic is more expensive but I made this commitment years ago to support natural farming (otherwise known as environmentally sustainable way of growing food) and I am well prepared to pay the price and cut back in other ways.  Baking ingredients are not cheap even in the supermarkets, I noticed how much the dried apricots have risen in price, I always get the non-sulphured variety – the ones that look more like wrinkly dried brown prunes – I cut these up into small pieces to put in the cake in place of candied peel which we are none too keen on but even if we did like it I would still prefer to use the apricots as I think they keep the cake moist and add to the flavour.

I always look forward to making the cake and even more to eating it but at the moment I am just gathering ingredients so they will be ready when I am.  I don’t usually make it until the last weekend in November, it seems too early at the moment – I am holding off getting too involved in doing things just for Christmas as I do not want it to take over my life so much that I don’t even notice November – so to start with I have plans to do a bit of general baking to try out one or two new recipes I have torn from the stack of magazines I decluttered.

I found a recipe for Toffee Apple Flapjacks and also on my list is Chocolate Hazelnut cookies – I have stopped buying biscuits recently so OH will be pleased to see the biscuit jar with something inside it for a change.

As we have an overabundance of cooking apples again this year in the freezer I will be using some up in a well-tried and tested recipe for Apple Cake, that uses stewed apple rather than chunks, from my Good Housekeeping Basic Cookery book.  This was one of the best wedding presents we received when we married in 1976 and I still use many of the recipes today – as you can see from the title it was the revised version which included metric weights (I hate to say I still use the ounces!).  I’ll post the recipe and photos later this week, however, you will have to take my word that it tastes just heavenly.

Of course the book cover is anything but vegetarian but I love the old-fashioned basic recipes it is a bit like using an old much loved Bero book.

Have a great week x

 

celebrations, fEAsting, recipes

Bake me a cake as fast as you can…

Last Tuesday I baked cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday on Thursday.  The first batch of chocolate ones did not make the grade –  they were hard, dry and quite floury more like a craggy chocolate pudding so I tried a second time with a plain mixture to which I added stewed apple in the middle and sultanas.  On Thursday I added a vanilla frosting topping and an iced decoration courtesy of Sainsbury’s.   This time they were light and extremely delicious – I will definitely make this recipe again.

150g unsalted butter (I used Bertolli Olive Oil spread)

115g caster sugar

1tsp French Almond extract

2 medium free range eggs

140g self raising flour

50g sultanas

100g cooked Bramley Apple sauce

I mainly use Organic and natural products where possible.

To make

Preheat oven to 180C, fan 160C, Gas 4.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, add Almond extract, eggs and 1tbsp flour and continue beating until combined.  Add remaining flour and sultanas and fold in.

Place 12 cupcake cases in a tin and fill each halfway with the mixture and a good teaspoon of apple sauce into each and top with remaining mixture.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden.  Leave to cool for a couple of minutes in tin then place on a cooling rack.

On Friday we had those Cheese and Leek Ramekins again.  This time I took a picture of them before they went in the oven and below is the recipe I never got around to posting last time.

Cheesey Leek Ramekins

My advice is to weigh and  prepare all the ingredients before starting to cook.

1tbsp olive oil

500g leeks, finely sliced

3 large eggs beaten

100g wholemeal breadcrumbs

125g mature farmhouse cheddar cheese, grated

1tsp dried tarragon or try it with a few stalks of freshly chopped chives

salt and ground black pepper

1-2 tomatoes sliced to place on top

To make

Heat the oil in a pan and gently cook the leeks for 10 mins.

Mix together the eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese and tarragon or chives.  Add cooked leeks and season mixture.

Spoon mixture into greased ramekin dishes. Place a slice of tomato on top of each. Bake at 200C or Gas 6 for about 15 mins until golden brown.  Leave to stand for a minute or two then run a knife around the edge and turn out.  Serve with a salad.  Can be eaten hot, warm or cold.

These are really good to take to work for lunchtime the next day with a salad.