Having just returned home from a routine dentist appointment, I thought there was no better time to complete today’s post! This has been sitting around here since last Friday but I couldn’t complete it in time. Today, after having recuperated some much-needed sleep throughout the night, I can say that it’s the first time in a month I feel rested. The sciatica pain is slowly dying down and telling you that I am relieved is definitely an understatement. Cheers to that.
I don’t usually post more than one recipe in a week but today I have some time to myself and I feel there’s no time like the present. I still have loads of sorting out and unpacking stuff to do (and I did some of that this morning) but I definitely prefer sitting down and writing something useful here. Well, I’m letting you be the judge of whether I do come up with useful things or not. I love being here though so why not?
Pretty weird as a title I know, but that’s how I felt when I baked this little beauty. My chocolate bakes which I have promised you will be posted soon, but today I thought about writing about a simple Madeira style cake which I love to prepare when I’m really up against it. I can never *not* have anything good to eat in this house, and neither should you – not that you must listen to everything I tell you but it’s nice to be prepared! Also there’s no need to remind my lovely readers that J eats for four, e di più!
I have been meaning to post this recipe for quite a while (I think I made this for the first time in the beginning of summer) but never came round to writing about it. Here it is today though. My inspiration comes from a recipe which you can find in Nigella’s HTBADG for Cherry Almond Loaf Cake. It’s a fantastic cake because you can replace the dried cherries with any other dried fruit you fancy. It’s as simple as that really. I love it because it’s easy and good for those days when chocolate won’t do either – a rarity, but it can happen. I used cranberries which worked really well. They are my favourites! One thing I will say is that since this cake is very moist, it has a tendency to take a bit longer than usual to bake completely. And it might remain moist in the middle, especially if you accidentally pierce a berry, but on the whole, a skewer or knife should come out clean. OK, here we go:
- 200g dried cranberries
- 250g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 225g soft butter
- 175g golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
- 100g ground almonds
- 6 x 15ml tablespoons milk
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 3. Grease and line a loaf tin.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar till they become creamy and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs slowly, then the vanilla extract.
Sift the flour and baking powder together and slowly fold them into the egg mixture, with the ground almonds.
Fold the dried cranberries and the milk and pour this cake batter into the prepared loaf tin. Don’t worry if the mixture seems thick. It’s supposed to be that way.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, but most importantly when a skewer comes out totally clean. Leave in the tin on a wire rack until the cake cools completely.
So during the last few weeks I have had one main aim in life you might say, i.e. to use up all the food in my fridge and pantry. It’s the classic situation really, I’m always tempted to purchase one or two ingredients for a particular recipe. Then I end up with a gazillion packets of dried fruit and nuts. Now one thing which I absolutely hate is to throw away food. When it’s bad there’s no other option of course, but when it’s good then the possibilities are endless…well, that’s what I keep telling myself…and it’s true.
There’s no doubt that these cookies are delicious, if you like cranberries and white chocolate that is. I know that not everyone likes white chocolate, but I guess it would be easy to use milk or dark chocolate instead. This recipe comes from Nigella’s Christmas. I have thought about waiting until the holidays to include these lovely little bites here, but I couldn’t wait that long and really you can make them any time you want. (White chocolate and cranberries remind me of Christmas though.) I made these three times and when it comes to any kind of cookie it’s always a party especially for J (and if you know him then that goes without saying)!
Some notes before you start: the mixture yields around 30 small cookies or 15 large ones, depending what you prefer. I made the latter. No news there I’m sure! Also you could use less chocolate if you like, as I did the first time I made them. However it’s tricky to mess about with an already good recipe. You could leave out the salt though, which I did the third time round.
- 150g plain flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
- 75g rolled oats (not instant)
- 125g butter, softened
- 75g dark brown sugar
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 75g dried cranberries
- 50g pecans, roughly chopped (works also with walnuts)
- 150g white chocolate chips or chunks
- Preheat your oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4 and line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Place the flour, baking powder, salt and oats in a large mixing bowl.
- In a medium-sized bowl place the soft butter and sugar and beat until light and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix well.
- To the above mixture add all the ingredients in the large bowl, then fold in the dried cranberries, nuts and chocolate chunks.
- Using your hands roll the dough into roughly golf ball size and place them on the baking sheet. (You will need more than one tray to make the cookies in two or more batches). Push them down with a fork if you prefer.
- Bake the cookie dough for 15 minutes, and when done they will be too soft to lift from the tray so let them cool for around 5-10 minutes after taking them out of the oven. Then leave them to cool on a wire rack.
As in the previous cookie recipe, you can freeze the dough for up to three months so if you’re serving these at a party you can prepare them way ahead of time and bake them two days before. They are super easy to make so why don’t you give them a go?
A few weeks ago I bought a packet of dried apricots for a lamb tagine recipe I wanted to try. I never got round to it, no matter how many times I included it in my New Year resolutions (which proved to me that these don’t work). Since I did not want the apricots to remain in my pantry forever I preferred to use them in another recipe rather than letting them go bad or worse – eating them as is! So without further rambling (as is often the case with me) here is a really yummy cake for you to try. This makes 1 loaf.
- 150g plain flour
- 70g wholemeal flour
- 85g light brown sugar (you can use granulated white if you like)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- the zest of 1 orange
- 65g dried apricots, chopped
- 50g dried pitted dates, chopped
- 175ml milk
- 1 large egg
- 30g butter, melted
Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat at 190°C (375 F). Grease a loaf tin with butter and some flour or use baking paper.
In a large bowl combine plain and wholemeal flours, baking powder, orange zest and the dried fruits.
In a smaller bowl beat the milk with the eggs and the melted butter. Pour this over mixture of dry ingredients and mix everything together until just moistened.
Place batter into your greased loaf tin for around 40 mins. (Always test by inserting a knife or a skewer. If this comes out clean then your cake is done.) Leave to cool for 10 mins and remove the cake from the tin.