Saturday, 30 October 2010

Orange and Lemons...

For a short period in October, the theme appears to be orange and black - you guessed it, it's around the time of Halloween.  I really dislike this combination, although I am a huge fan of the saffron orange which just conjures up the impression fiery warmth and life.  Another reason why I love the colour orange is that it reminds me of the fruit as well, which comes in beautiful gluts at this time of the year.  Naturally then, this glut will feature somewhere in the form of a cake, and this happens to be one of my all time favourite cakes.  Tunisian orange cake was first introduced into my hemisphere as I worked at Harbour Lights behind the bar.  It is in effect a light citrusy sponge drenched in an orange syrup and tastes much better the next day as the flavours mingle and time has allowed the sponge to really absorb the syrup.  The recipe was found in a Waitrose Kitchen magazine (Oct '10) as a feature of a family-run cafe called The Main Street Trading Company which resides in Scotland.  If you're ever around the area, check it out, it looks so inviting!  In the meantime though, I leave you with their recipe.

Tunisian Orange Cake
(Serves 8)


  • 45g Polenta
  • 200g Caster sugar
  • 100g Ground almonds
  • 1.5tsp Baking powder
  • 215ml Olive oil
  • 4 Eggs, lightly beaten
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 45g Granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1 Orange
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 1/4 of a large cinnamon stick
  1. Line the base of a 19/20cm cake tin with baking parchment and grease the sides with some oil
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients of the cake: polenta, almonds, baking powder, caster sugar and zest.  Beat the eggs and oil together, then whisk into the dry mixture.
  3. Pour into the prepared cake tin and put into the cold oven.  Switch on the oven to GM 5/190C/375F and bake for 50-60 minutes, until lightly golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre.  Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.  
  4. Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar, orange and lemon juices and cinnamon stick into a pan and heat until all the sugar is dissolved, stirring often. 
  5. Skewer holes all over the cake and pour the syrup over the cake gently, giving the cake time to absorb the liquid.  Place a baking tray underneath the cake to catch the juices!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Much to do about a Pumpkin

What does usually think of when Halloween once again pops overs for a visit? Well in this household it is what to do with the Jack-O-Lantern left behind? Leave it to go mouldy and try to dispose of it without touching it? Or, chop it up and make it into hearty meals thereby giving Jack a purpose to his short life other than to look spooky-but-not-really for one night.  Naturally we chose the latter, and so jack soon became among other things, part of a lasagne, soup, quick bread and pie.   Jack, you have done well and we look forward to seeing you again next year!  Until then, below will be a record of your invaluable contributions to our happy bellies.

Pumpkin Lasagne:
(Serves 4)

This came about as a result of copious bottles of opened red wine sitting around and a craving for something indulgent but wholesome and a need to empty some almost-finished boxes of lasagne sheets.  I used tinned plum tomatoes, as I don't know about you but for some reason I really do not like the taste of chopped tomatoes!  Try cherry tomatoes too, they are divine in a sauce.


Red Wine Sauce:
  • About 400g Pumpkin, cubed (1cm)
  • 1 Small Pack (250g) Spinach, Chopped
  • 2 Red Onions, chopped
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, crushed and chopped
  • 1 Carrot, Finely chopped
  • 1 Celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1Tbsp Fresh Sage, chopped
  • 400g Tin of tomatoes
     -Plus 1/4 Can Water to swill and add to pot
  • 200ml Red Wine
  • 1Tbsp Oil
White Sauce:
  • 1tsp Dried Thyme
  • 300ml Milk
  • 25g Butter
  • 1Tbsp Flour
  • 50g Strong Cheddar Cheese, finely grated
  • Nutmeg, grated
  1. Pre-heat the oven to GM6/200C/400F
  2. Coat the pumpkin with oil, salt and pepper and roast in oven for about 45 minutes until tender
  3. Coat the base of a large pan with oil (I used sunflower), add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and gently heat for about 15 minutes with the lid on, stirring occasionally. 
  4. Add the red wine to the vegetables and simmer uncovered gently for about 5 minutes to evaporate the alcohol, then stir in the sage, tomatoes and water.  Break up the tomatoes and stir to mix, then bring to the boil and simmer partially covered for 20-30 minutes gently until all the vegetables are tender.
  5. Meanwhile, pan-fry the spinach in a little oil, and season with nutmeg and pepper.  Set aside.  (I actually used mature spinach from the garden which takes slightly longer to cook, but equally delicious).
  6. Heat the milk and add the thyme until almost boiling.  Remove from heat, season and leave aside to infuse.
  7. Blend the red wine sauce until mostly smooth and stir in the cooked lumps of pumpkin.  Season with salt and pepper.
  8. To make the white sauce, melt the butter gently until sizzling, add the flour and stir over a low heat to cook for about a minute.  Stir in the milk gradually over a medium heat to prevent lumps (whisk if lumps form or keep stirring) until the sauce thickens.  Season and set aside.
  9. Assembly: In a oven-proof dish, layer half the red wine sauce, top with half the spinach then sheets of wetted lasagne sheets.  Top lasagne sheets with the remaining red wine sauce and spinach then another layer of wetted lasagne sheets.  Press down the sheets gently to level and pour over the white sauce.  Top with the grated cheese and put the lasagne in the oven for about 30 minutes until the whole thing is bubbling hot and the top golden.

Pumpkin and Ginger Teabread:
(Serves 10)

This recipe was taken from the BBC Good Food website which was mildly adapted to suit my caeliac of a housemate to be gluten-free.  It's best served warm straight from the oven in my opinion or microwaved for a few seconds on high later on.  Other than plain and simple, I liked spreading Nutella on top of my slice for a little bit of chocolate naughtiness.  I made this in a tray baked for about 50 minutes but of course times vary with ovens or tins used.  The site recommends 50-60 minutes in a 2lb loaf tin.

  • 175g butter , melted
  • 140g clear honey
  • 1 large egg , beaten
  • 250g raw peeled pumpkin, coarsely grated
     -(about 500g/1lb 2oz before peeling and seeding)
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 350g Gluten-Free self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4/ fan 160C. Grease and line the base of a tray bake with baking paper.
  2. Mix the butter, honey and egg and stir in the pumpkin or squash. Then mix in the sugar, flour and ginger.
  3. Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle the top with the demerara sugar. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until risen and golden brown. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack. Serve thickly sliced and buttered.
    NB: I found with gluten-free flour the cake was slightly more fragile, so handle with care!

Pumpkin Pie
(Serves 4)


  • 300g Pumpkin, cubed (1cm)
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Courgette, sliced
  • 1 Clove Garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 Small Onion, chopped
  • 1 Carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 Celery, sliced
  • 100g Green Lentils
  • 1/4tsp Dried Tyme
  • 1 Tomato, cubed
  • 150ml Red Wine
  • 200ml water (made up with courgette pan juice)
  • 2Tbsp Soya Sauce
  • 3 large potatoes (about 300g), peeled and quartered
  • 1 Small Bunch Dill (25g)
  • 1Tbsp Wholegrain Mustard
  • Knob of butter
  • Splash of milk
  1. Pre-heat oven to GM6/200C/400F
  2. Boil some water with a bay leaf and enough to cover lentils generously and cook for 30-45 minutes until tender.
  3. Coat the pumpkin in oil and season before roasting for 30-45 minutes in the oven until tender.
  4. Heat some oil in a frying pan and pan fry the courgettes over a high heat until lightly singed and withered. Season and set aside.
  5. Swill out the pan and make up to 200ml to make some stock.
  6. In a pan, coat the base of the pan with oil and add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery - cover and cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  7. Add tomatoes and cook until softened then add wine and simmer for 5 minute uncovered to evaporate alcohol.  Add the stock, bay leaf, thyme and soya sauce, bring to the boil and simmer covered for about 20-30 minutes until all vegetables are tender.
  8. Meanwhile, boil some salted water and cook the potatoes for about 20 minutes or until tender.  When cooked, mash with butter, mustard and enough milk (about 75-150ml) to make a smooth spreadable mash.  Stir in the dill and season.
  9. Blend the sauce when ready and stir in the pumpkin, courgettes and lentils then seaso.
  10. To assemble: Pour the filling into an oven-proof dish and top with the the mash, level out roughly and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until bubbling hot and golden.

    Tuesday, 12 October 2010

    Forcaccia and the first of the Autumn Soups

    My last post raved about the beauty of autumn, but does anyone else feel the slight pressure to cling to the light meals of summer still?  It is that strange phase of change where my body just has not had a chance to adapt yet.  The weather so far has swung between summer sunshine to waking up to a sparkling frost blanketed scene.  Autumn's harvest bounty is steadily growing though so I thought I would introduce the first of my experimental autumn recipes.  Naturally it would be soup, and naturally I would find inspiration for it by rummaging through my fridge.  Stupidly though after a thorough search through my house, the scrap of paper containing my recipe is gone (for good? who knows?) so I will have to just let your imagination fill in the blank!  It involved carrots, parsnips, celery, mushrooms and soya sauce, partially blended to make a thick earthy broth.

    The other night as I was on a baking spree, I decided to make some bread again.  I feel the bread section of this blog needs padding out and bread making is just the most satisfying experience.  This time, after being tempted to make some Mediterranean forcaccia I settled for some aromatic fennel forcaccia instead which has a milder flavour so more potential for different sandwich fillings!  Happily I discovered that fennel forcaccia and ugly root vegetable autumn soup marries together beautifully with lashings of butter.

    I also love it sliced in half with butter and yeast extract for breakfast, hummous with St-Paulin cheese for lunch or spread thickly with yummy jam as an any-time snack.

    Fennel Sandwich Forcaccia:
    (Serves 8-10)

    • 2 Cups Warm water
    • 1.5tsp/7g Sachet Dry yeast
    • 1tsp Sugar
    • 3Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
      -plus extra to glaze
    • 1.50tsp Salt
    • 1Tbsp Fennel seeds
      -plus extra to spirinkle
    • 1 Cup Wholemeal/Brown flour
    • 5 Cups Plain/Bread Flour
    • About 2Tbsp Cornmeal/Polenta to dust
    1. Stir the yeast and sugar into the warm water and leave until foamy - at least 10 minutes.
    2. In a bowl, mix togehther  along with the yeast mixture, wholemeal flour, salt and olive oil.
    3. Gradually add the remaining flour until a dough forms and turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.  Return the dough to an oiled bowl, coat in the oil by rolling then cover with a damp tea towel or cling film.  Leave the dough to rise until doubled in bulk - At least an hour.
    4. Oil a baking sheet/pan and dust with fine cornmeal/polenta, then roll out the dough to roughly fit the pan.
    5. Press the dough into the pan until about even, cover and let rise for another hour or so.  The dough should be tender to the touch.
    6. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C/400F during the last 15 minutes.
    7. Dimple the dough with fingertips, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with fennel seeds and bake for 30 minutes in the bottom third of your oven, or until lightly golden.  Cool on a wire rack. 

    Monday, 11 October 2010

    Autumn Harvest - Apples

    Finally, we have come to this beautiful time of year again where the temperature is starting to fall, the air is slightly crisp and the leaves are gradually donning their gilded coats of golds, russets and saffron.  Autumn is my favourite season visually, in terms of the smell in the air - slightly toasty and earthy and of course the abundance of delicious food.  Cue, plump squashes, leafy spinach, chard, various stoned fruits and of course rosy apples and juicy pears!  Goodbye Mediterranean, hello homey comfort food.

    Last week, my house mate and I went scrumping for apples in the derelict orchard down our road which our wonderful nature loving neighbour brought to our attention.  Previously we have drenched our shoes as we trudged about picking brambles and plums in the wet forest, so this time we had the bright idea (well at the time) or wearing flip flops which resulted in a slightly treacherous session in the forest among the clumped nettles, thorny bramble vines snaking across the floor and vertical twigs grappling to skewer our feet.  All in all though,  some tree climbing and clever dodging later, I was triumphantly walking home with my apple bounty.  At home though, after filling a bucket, the problem arose of what to do with it all?

    So in the near future, expect lots of sweet apples treats to be popping up!  So far, I have made rum soaked apple layer cake (yummy but ugly), apple crumble (naturally), apple cupcakes, apple and custard muffins, potato and apple boulangรจre (Not recommended) and the list will hopefully go on.  Until next time, I leave you with an apple and custard muffin recipe adapted from my M&S cakes books.

    Apple and Custard Cakes:
    (Makes 12 muffins)


    • 90g Butter
    • 110g Caster Sugar
    • 2 Eggs
    • 110g Self-raising flour
    • 30g Custard Powder
    • 2Tbsp Milk
    • 1-2 large apples (200g total), cored and thinly sliced
    • 1Tbsp Extra butter, melted
    • 1Tbsp Ground cinnamon
    • 1Tbsp Sugar
    Custard Filling:
    • 1Tbsp Custard Powder
    • 1Tsp Sugar
    • 125ml Milk 


    Custard Filling:
    1. Mix a little milk with the custard and sugar to form a paste.  Heat the remaining milk, mix with paste and heat gently until thickened.  Cover and leave to cool.
    Cake mix:

    1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F/GM 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
    2. Beat together butter and sugar and custard powder until soft and creamy, then whisk in eggs gradually.
    3. Whisk in the milk and fold in flour until just combined (a figure-of-eight motion with the whisk is very effective).
    4. Divide half the mixture among the paper cases, top with custard, then finish with distributing the last of the cake mix among the 12 cases.  Top with sliced apples, pressing in slightly and bake for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine 1Tbsp sugar with ground cinnamon and set aside. 
    5. Turns cakes onto a wire rack, brush with melted butter then sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon mix. Leave to cool on the wire rack or serve warm.

    Saturday, 9 October 2010

    Poppy Seed Bread

    I feel I should start off this post with a massive apology for not updating for a long while, truth be told I haven't been cooking anything inspiring lately and life's not too bright at the moment, what with a bike crash accident and a lack of supporting job. On the good side though, I've had time to dance more and read more cookbooks. One book I find myself referring to time and again is the Cornucopia at Home cookbook from Dublin's wholefoods vegetarian restaurant. We came across this tiny treasure cove a few years back, and it's heartening to know that the restaurant is doing so well, it's expanding into the building next door.  Rarely, does one find a cookbook and cook through it's contents eagerly, but I have progressively gone through most of the recipes in this book and I can confirm that most of the recipes work beautifully with surprisingly little hassle ending in a homey and delicious meal at the end of my enjoyable labour.

    I finally decided to delve into the bread section of the book recently and tried out their poppyseed load which I have to say was delicious and entertaining seeing poppy seeds make a break for it as I kneaded the dough into a ball of smooth, elastic dough.  I really do not see the point in buying a bread machine when this part of the bread making process is just so soothing.  Upon saying this though, waking up to the smell of bread is lovely and can only be achieved by hand by a dedicated early riser... which I am not. I tend to find myself baking at night so I go to bed to the smell of fresh bread instead which is equally good as I have the anticipation of fresh bread in the morning.

    This bread was lovely with blackberry & ginger chutney and goat's cheese, as well as dunked into thick and creamy soups or simply spread with jam for breakfast.  With that I leave you with a recipe and hopefully an incentive to buy this wonderful cookbook.

    Poppy seed Bread
    (Makes a 2Lb loaf)


    • 250g wholemeal/Brown flour
    • 250g plain flour
    • 70g poppy seeds
    • Pinch of salt
    • 70ml vegetable oil
    • 1.5tsp active dried yeast
    • 280ml warm water
    • 0.5tsp honey


    • Stir the yeast and honey gently into the warm water and leave to foam for about 10-15 minutes
    • Combine the flours, poppy seeds and salt into one bowl - I used a whisk to mix the dry ingredients together well.   
    • Add the oil and mix well using your fingers to rub the oil into most of the flour.  Just like rubbing butter into flour for pastry.
    • Make a well in the centre of the bowl and pour in the yeast and water mixture.  Mix with your hands until you get a soft ball of dough.
      NB: if sticky, sprinkle more flour and conversely, if too dry, add water a drop at a time to the right consistency.
    • Roll out onto a clean surface (I didn't bother with dusting with flour and it was fine) and knead for about 10 minutes.  Oil the bowl (which should be clean of dough), turn the dough to coat it in the oil and cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm.  Leave to rise for 1-1.5 hours in a warm place or until doubled in bulk.
    • Knock back/punch the dough to its original size and either put into a 2Lb tin or shape into a loaf shape.  
    • Leave to rise for another 30 minutes - in the last 15 minutes, pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F/GM 4.
    • Slash (do not tear) across the top of your loaf 3-4 times with a sharp knife and place in the oven for 50-60 minutes (tin) or 40-50 minutes if free-form loaf.
    • The bread is ready when it sound hollow when tapped at the base and lightly golden.
    • Leave to cool on a wire rack.  Cover with a tea towel of you want a soft crust. 
    adapted from Cornucopia at home by Eleanor Heffernan