Spring has truly arrived on this little island. The Sun was out beautifully this morning and it was a lovely day. Temperatures are so mild during the day, but we still need to keep the jackets out for the evenings. It’s the perfect weather. Not too warm, not too cold.
During the past few days I’ve been feeling as if I had a nasty fall packaged with a good blow on the head, leaving me with a headache and some bumps, lumps and scratches. Said fall could have been a result of a serious lack of concentration. My mind could have been somewhere else. It could have happened…
Continue reading Vegetable Soup, or a variation on Minestra
Hold on, hold on, I hear you say. I know! Today I am giving you something which doesn’t normally appear much here at C&T HQ. When people ask me for alternative ingredients, or diet related recipes I usually give them links to some of my favourite blogs. I don’t do that out of laziness. Most of the time I go out of my way to look for good nutritious recipes that don’t take loads of time and faff to make. This doesn’t apply to food allergies or any other health issue. I do take issue with those who look down on others because they don’t eat “clean”. What? Are the rest eating dirty? And this is not one of those recipes, so there’s a sigh of relief! I can hear it from here.
But that is another story, or rather another blog post. Having said that I am waiting for some books on the subject to arrive through the post very soon, which I hope to be reviewing in the next few weeks. If they decide to get here, that is. I’ve been waiting for over a month now.
Continue reading Sugarless Apple and Banana Cake
I think I mentioned this before: apples are not necessarily my favourite fruit. Then, you say, you were living in the wrong places. And you might be right on that one! Michigan is practically apple-mad and so is the UK. For me, apples are meant to be eaten as they are, raw with the skin on if possible. I don’t like cider either, but a trip to the cider mill is always fun.
I am partial though to the apple and pastry combo. I generally don’t believe in rules when it comes to food, but I am particular about this. Apple pie is to be eaten hot with vanilla ice-cream. No custard malarkey business and for goodness sake, no cold pies please!
Continue reading Puff Pastry Apple Tart
I love a good burger. Don’t you? I don’t know what it is but the thought of one just screams of summer barbecues. I find one challenge with making my own though, and that’s coming up with new ways of turning a good burger into something more special. Now I would never bash the ol’ beef burger. Never, but finding a really good one is tough.
A few weeks ago I bought some pork mince on a whim on one trip to the butcher’s. I didn’t know what to do with it until I saw Gill Meller from River Cottage whip up some gorgeous-looking burgers on YouTube. I like how simple they are to make, and the combination of pork, sage and apples is, of course, a classic. So I decided to give this recipe a go. I looked through my herb stash and found that I didn’t have any sage. OK. No biggie I said, and allowed myself some leeway and used my trusty za’atar instead. (At the moment I’m using up some of my dried herbs and spices so that I can replenish with fresh ones.) I also ran out of seeds so I couldn’t toast my own. So I used some ground cinnamon to counteract the tartness of the apples. (I was tempted to add some honey in the mix but in the end I decided to leave it out. It would have given the burgers a more golden caramelised look but then got stuck on how much I would need. The taste would have been great.) It worked. This amount will give you around 8 small patties. Keep me posted if you make these for your next cookout.
Continue reading Pork Burgers
I think there is nothing more humble, homely and comforting than a pie. There’s also an honesty about it or so I feel. Perhaps it’s because I tend to make shortcrust with my hands, which get very messy, sometimes a little bit too much! There’s always a sense of accomplishment when it’s done, although that still isn’t reason enough for me to make it more often! Joking apart, if you tend to have warm hands like I do, making it manually isn’t the best thing either. There’s always the option of using a food processor, but that also means more things to clean up. So for me, that’s a no-no. Yes, I’m lazy that way.
Continue reading Double-Crusted Apple Pie
This is something which we made very recently. It’s really nothing special but a pork and apple pairing does wonders. Good quality meat is lovely even all by itself – any good quality ingredient really. However I feel that with some extra effort any meal can be heart-warming or festive.
Unfortunately, when we moved to a new place last year I found the freezer to be too small. Having said that, I now find that it suits our needs just fine now; I have learnt to buy less and use what I have before buying anything. I had a couple of pork loins which I wanted to use but didn’t want to worry about any complicated recipe. I always have apples in the fruit bowl and I had three unattractive ones past their prime. I found a quick sauce in Nigella Express which was perfect, but which I changed around with more shortcuts. All I needed was an large onion, around 2 tablespoons of butter, pinch of salt, my three apples, 2 tablespoons of gin (Nigella uses pink gin, but the white variety which I used is ok), juice of a lemon and some chilli flakes to taste. (A fresh chilli is preferable but I had just made some chilli oil with mine, so flakes had to go in with the apples instead.)
It’s so quick and easy. All you have to do is soften the onions in the butter, with some salt. Peel and cut the apples in bite-seized cubes and add them with the onion mixture. Pour in the gin and lemon juice, add the chilli flakes (or use a fresh one) and mix. Cook on the hob on medium heat for around 20 to 15 minutes. And you’re done. Good with anything. I think I could eat this as is – without the meat. Enjoy!
Honestly, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like cake…well…come to think of it, I do, but let’s not go into that. It hasn’t been *that* hot in Surrey but we had some summer weather lately so I wasn’t doing much baking. I made this cake quite a while ago and I loved it. I cannot take call the credit for it because it came to me via the National Trust, with little changes (found on their Teatime Baking Book). The story behind why I like this recipe so much is simple: I am always on the lookout for a good winter cake which resembles a Christmas cake but without the extra richness and without the extra faff. Faff here means making it 3 weeks before, putting extra booze every few days, and because of that the blessed thing usually lasts until July. Don’t get me wrong, you know that I *have* found the best ever fruit cake for Christmas, but this is a good alternative. Try it if you can and tell me what you think.
- 450g plain flour, sifted
- 4 teaspoons mixed spice
- 225g white shortening, softened at room temperature (I used Trex)
- 175g golden caster sugar
- 175g sultanas
- 175g currants
- 1 small apple, grated
- 300ml milk
- 2 teaspoons water (or milk)
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons demerara sugar, for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC and grease and line a square cake tin, preferably a 20cm one, but I made this in a 23cm one and it worked well.
- In a large bowl mix the flour, spice and rub in the shortening. Add the dried fruit, sugar, grated apple and mix very very well.
- Now add all the milk, the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. When the dough is fairly wet, pour into the prepared cake tin and make the top smooth. Sprinkle with the demerara sugar and bake for around 45 minutes. Every oven is different so the baking time may vary. Insert a skewer or knife in the middle. If it comes out clean, your cake is done.
Perfect with tea on a cold autumn day. Enjoy!