Archive for the 'Sweet Stuff' Category

Oxford Lunch

Oxford Lunch

This cake recipe includes ground almonds which allows the cake to keep a little longer. It’s got lots of dried fruits and just a little spice. Great with afternoon tea.

Ingredients

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 115g butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • pinch salt
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • 125g sultanas
  • 100g glacé cherries
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 120ml whole milk
  • flaked almonds

Method

  1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl along with the salt and ground spices. Rub butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then add the caster sugar and ground almonds.
  2. Toss the dried fruit in a little flour (this stops the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the baking tin) and add to the mixing bowl.
  3. Beat the egg into the milk and mix well with the dry ingredients.
  4. Pour (this is quite a wet batter) into a greased 2lb loaf tin and sprinkle the top liberally with flaked almonds. Bake at 160°C (140°C fan) for 1 hour 15 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing. It’s best eaten on the day you bake it, but it will keep very well in an airtight box for 2-3 days. It also freezes quite well; just wrap in greaseproof paper and foil.

Makes 10-12 portions.

Christmas Poor Man’s Cake

Christmas Poor Man's Cake

In a rare moment of kitchen experimentation, I came up with this Christmas version of an old family recipe, Poor Man’s Cake. It’s got lots of Christmassy flavours like orange zest and warm spice. If you’re not into Christmas cake or pudding, give this a try.

Ingredients

  • 450g self-raising flour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • zest 1 small orange
  • 125g sultanas
  • 125g raisins
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 3 tbsp brandy (or dark rum)
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 240ml whole milk
  • 3 tbsp demerera sugar

Method

  1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl along with the salt and ground spices. Rub butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Now add the caster sugar and orange zest.
  2. Slit open the cardamom pods and grind the black seeds using a mortar and pestle and add to the mixing bowl.
  3. Toss the dried fruit in a little flour (this stops the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the baking tin) and add to the mixing bowl.
  4. Beat the eggs into the milk and rum, then mix well with the dry ingredients.
  5. Pour (this is quite a wet batter) into a greased 8″ (20cm) square tin and sprinkle the top liberally with the demerera sugar. Bake at 160°C (140°C fan) for 2 hours.
  6. Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes before removing. It’s best eaten on the day you bake it, but it will keep very well in an airtight box for 2-3 days. It also freezes quite well; just wrap in greaseproof paper and foil.

Makes 20-25 portions.

Chai – Masala Tea

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the majority of Indians did not know how to make a cup of tea and were reluctant to drink one. Now that India is both the world’s major producer and consumer of tea, this seems incredible. It confounds the myth that the British acquired their love of tea from their Indian subjects. In fact, it was the British who introduced tea to the Indians. Although they barely changed the way Indians eat, the British radically altered what they eat and drink.  While the introduction of a wide variety of European and American vegetables to India was an inadvertent by-product of British rule, the conversion of the population to tea-drinking was the result of what must have been the first major marketing campaign in India. The British-owned Indian Tea Association set itself the task of first creating a new habit among the Indian population, and then spreading it across the entire subcontinent.

Extract from “Curry – A Biography” by Lizzie Collingham.

If like me, you tend to “over-indulge” when you eat Indian food, chai is a great option for dessert when you’re too full, but you still want to satisfy that sweet tooth. The fragrant spices are infused in boiling water and milk before the tea is steeped. Chai is also believed to be great for tummy upsets and generally aiding digestion.

Even if you’re not accustomed to taking sugar in your tea, don’t skip on the sweetening. You need it to bring out the warmth and flavour of the spices.

Ingredients

  • 350ml water
  • 100 ml milk
  • 5 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 3 cloves
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • piece of cinnamon stick (about 5cm)
  • slice of ginger root (about 2cm thick)
  • 1 tsp tea leaves (black tea)
  • 1-2 tsp sugar

Method

  1. Heat the water, milk, ginger and spices in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and leave simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  2. Take off the heat and add the tea leaves. Leave to stand for 3 minutes before straining into a mug and sweetening to taste with a little sugar. A teaspoon or two should do it.

Serves 1.

Poor Man’s Cake (Granny’s Cake)

Poor Man's Cake

If you’re the type of home cook who hates the sticky and precise world of baking, as I do, then this is the cake recipe for you. It’s easy-peasy; mix your dry ingredients, mix your wet ingredients, mix them together. Bake. Eat.

Ingredients

  • 450g self-raising flour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 125g sultanas
  • 125g currants
  • 100g glacé cherries
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 240ml whole milk

Method

  1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl along with the salt and ground spices. Rub butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then add the caster sugar.
  2. Toss the dried fruit in a little flour (this stops the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the baking tin) and add to the mixing bowl.
  3. Beat the eggs into the milk and mix well with the dry ingredients.
  4. Spoon into a greased 8″ (20cm) square tin and cook at 160°C (140°C fan) for 2 hours. Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes before removing. It’s best eaten on the day you bake it, but it will keep very well in a tin for about 2 days. It also freezes quite well; just wrap in greaseproof paper and foil.

Makes 20-25 portions.

Baked Nectarines

Baked Nectarine with Mascarpone

There’s something frugal and maybe a little dull about a dessert called “Baked Fruit”, but it’s a real cracker. I was intrigued to try it because there must be a recipe for the dish in almost every trendy cookbook available these days. I know Jamie and Nigella certainly have them.

I had some nectarines to hand but you can experiment with whatever fruit you like (I believe rhubarb and figs work very well).

Halve and stone one large nectarine per person. Arrange (cut side up) in a baking dish. Dust each piece fruit of with a little caster sugar (I used vanilla sugar) and add a few drops of brandy over the fruit. Bake in the oven at 240°C for about 12 minutes. It’s excellent served with rich mascarpone, sweetened with some vanilla sugar.

Strawberries in Balsamic Vinegar

Strawberries in Balsamic Vinegar with Mascarpone

Strawberries and vinegar might not sound like a likely combination, but this makes a fantastic and easy dessert. Take a large punnet of strawberries, enough for two people. Wash, hull and slice the berries into a bowl. Mix a teaspoon of caster sugar with a teaspoon of good balsamic vinegar and add to the sliced strawberries. Mix gently then cover with cling film and allow the berries to macerate for an hour or so.

Serve with a blob of mascarpone, sweetened with a little vanilla sugar.

Serves 2.

Clotted Cream

M&S Clotted Cream

Fans of ‘afternoon tea’ will be pleased to hear that clotted cream is available to buy in Marks & Spencer. Good old Marks. This 150g packet cost €2.50. I’ve kept an eye out for clotted cream for years but none of the ‘Irish’ supermarkets stocked it. Get baking those scones!