Thursday, 29 September 2011

Date and Walnut Cake

A little old fashioned, yes. But, really that's what makes this cake so good. It goes down so well with a cup of tea, especially during the autumn months when it's blustery outside and you really want something cosy and nostalgic.

This recipe was passed on to my mum, who bakes this cake a lot, so it really reminds me of home. It's a boiled cake, so unlike most fruit cakes, it's very simple. You will need an 18cm loaf tin (greased.)

60g Margarine
1 packet of slab dates
60g Brown sugar
25ml / 1 cup of water
100g / 1 cup of self raising flour
2 eggs
60g Chopped walnuts
teaspoon bicarbonate soda

To cook:
Put the margarine, dates (broken up,) water, brown sugar and bicarbonate soda into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Then reduce the temperature to a gentle simmer and stir occasionally for about 15mins.
Allow to cool and add the rest of the ingredients (save some walnuts for the top of the cake,) mix together with a wooden and put into your greased baking tin.
Cook in a preheated oven at 150 C / 300 F / gas no.2 for 1hr and 30mins.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Humble Baked Potato

The humble baked potato - such a no-brainer, cheap and one of the most comforting foods around. It can be as decadent or as humble as you like. And they seem to go with whatever you want to go with them, leftover chili or sausages are especially good..

These are a semi-decadent, twice baked, version (otherwise known as 'cheese boats.') They're great for feeding hungry house guests on an especially wet, autumn evening.

So, so easy. Rub olive oil and salt flakes over the skin of your (scrubbed) potatoes. Either prick their skins with a fork or thread them through metal skewers (this is one of Nigella's tips) and put in a hot oven for about 1 hour.

For our twice baked version, take them out of the oven after 1 hour and when they're cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the middles and put them to one side in a bowl (keeping the skins in tact may require a little concentration) Roughly mash up the insides with butter, cheese, salt & pepper and a tiny splash of milk (or cream) then refill the skins.
Put back in the oven for around another 30 minutes longer until the tops have started to brown.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Homemade Chilli

This is a fresh and very tasty Chilli con Carne, perfect for these cooler Autumn nights. For extra oomph serve with a handful of grated cheese and some sour cream - but on this occasion I wanted to keep it simple, with a sprinkling of coriander.


2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 green pepper
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 packet of extra lean steak mince
1 tin of red kidney beans
1 cupful of fresh (or dried) vegetable stock
a large bunch of coriander
a dash of cayenne pepper
a (generous) dash of cumin

To Make:

Dice all of your veg; toss the onion, carrots and celery into a pan with a splash of olive oil; stir for ten minutes until softened, before adding the mince. Let this brown before throwing in your chopped tomatoes and stirring again. Add the stock and the chopped green pepper before putting the lid on and letting it simmer for fifteen minutes or until reduced. Season with salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne and add about a quarter of your fresh coriander; in the meantime put your rice on (I had basmati) while the chilli reduces - when done, strain the rice and dollop into a bowl before ladling the hot chilli over and garnishing with a couple of handfuls of coriander. Comfort in a bowl.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Fresh Plum Cake

Making this is good fun when there's two of you in the kitchen; one to weigh and mix and one to chop the plums. This cake would go down well during an afternoon with a cup of tea- but as this cake is so light, it would sit just as happily with a glass of white wine on an evening.

Perfect for a celebratory evening of drinks and cake. Perhaps in aid of the return to University, back to work or just the coming of Autumn.. a reason to celebrate is never far..

150g butter
150g caster sugar
10-14 plums (quartered with stones removed)
3 eggs
75g plain flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
100g ground almonds
50g chopped nuts

1. Preheat the oven to 180 and line and grease a cake tin (about 20cm in diameter / width)
3. Use an electric whisk to firstly beat the butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time
4. Fold in the flour and baking powder with a metal spoon, rather than the mixer.
5. Add the ground almonds and nuts and mix them in, then spoon it all into your greased dish.
6. Squish in the plum quarters so they fit into the nooks and crannies.
7. Cook for 40 - 45 mins and test if it's done with a skewer (stick it in and if it comes out clean, it's done.)
8. Leave to cool for 15 mins before turning out and becoming a marvel.

(Credit is owed for the very most part to Mr Nigel Slater for this recipe.)

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

(Very) Quick Chorizo and Bean Stew

This is a great hangover meal, though it's only recommended for later on in the afternoon, when you can actually stomach the thought of eating. This works well because you get lots of fibre from the beans, nutrients from the tomatoes and chorizo is a fantastic hangover cure (something to do with the mild spice and meatiness.) It's speedy to put together - 10minutes is all.

(A word of warning - if you have a crippling hangover don't eat anything, apart from maybe toast. Particularly advisable if you've had a colourful combination of drinks the night before.. trust us.)

A good few chunky slices of chorizo sausage
1 finely chopped onion
1 (or 2) garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tin of beans (whatever takes your fancy, although not baked beans) - or chickpeas
A spilling handful of parsley

To cook:
Fry your onion over a medium heat for a few minutes.
Add the garlic and chorizo to fry for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and beans (or chickpeas) simmer until thoroughly heated through.
Add your parsley at the last minute and don't wolf down too quickly. Eat with a good slice of toasted ciabatta.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Foodie-Movie of the Week: The Kids Are Alright

I really like this film; it's kind of wholesome and pleasant to watch. For one thing I love the house that they live in - but mainly I enjoy watching Mark Ruffalo potter around his little organic farm! It's so pretty, and the restaurant that his character owns looks like my idea of culinary heaven. I couldn't find any really good food pics but recommend the film for a rainy day - it's all California sunshine and outdoor eating.. a welcome diversion from work and grey mornings here!