Tag Archives: Aga cooking

Cardamom and almond steamed pudding

cardamom and almond steamed pudding

 

A steamed pudding rounds off a sunday roast better than most puddings I find. My girls both love a syrup sponge. Yesterday I thought I would fancy it up a bit. The addition of freshly ground cardamom adds a delicious scent and the crunch of lightly toasted almonds adds bite to the squidgy, teeth-achingly sweet syrupy sponge. I did make a mistake though. I didn’t make custard to go with it. Last time I made custard after sunday lunch I curdled the eggs trying to cook it too quickly. It’s easier to get a pot of cream out of the fridge. But this pudding deserves custard and I shouldn’t have shied away from it. I won’t next time.

This recipe is inspired by one in Hilaire Walden’s Glorious Puddings, and the title of this book says it all. I have made a few changes to make it my own.

50g flaked almonds
2 tbsp golden syrup
175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
4 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and bashed to a powder
3 eggs
100g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds

Method
Place the flaked almonds in a dry pan and place over a medium heat until they are lightly toasted. Pour onto a plate and set aside until you are ready to serve the pudding.

Grease a 1½ pint capacity heatproof bowl with a little butter. Take a teaspoon of ground almonds and tip into the bowl and swirl around until it gives a light coating all over. Tip out any excess. Spoon the golden syrup into the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

Fill a large saucepan half-full with water and place a small plate or trivet at the bottom. Bring to the boil.

Beat the butter, sugar and ground cardamom together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs  one at a time and beat well between additions. Fold in the flour and the ground almonds until well combined. Spoon carefully into the bowl over the syrup. Level the top carefully. Cover with a pleated piece of greaseproof paper and tie with string. Place carefully into the pan of boiling water and cover with a tight-fitting lid. This needs to steam for 45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. I place the pan into the simmering oven of my Aga once it is boiling. I tend to leave it longer than 45 minutes. Yesterday it sat in the pan in the simmering oven for about two hours while I made and ate dinner with no harm coming to it.

Carefully remove the paper, remembering that steam will rush out, place a deep serving dish on top of the bowl and carefully turn it over. The pudding should just slip out, sometimes making a satisfying sucking noise as it does so.  Sprinkle the almonds over the top and serve with custard.

Cherry pie

cherry pie

I have mentioned before my generous friend with a wonderful garden. This week he has dropped off several baskets of freshly picked goodies, including cherries and green walnuts. I am very excited about the walnuts as I have wanted to pickle walnuts for a long while and there will be a post about this coming soon. But first the cherries. Here they are in all their glory.

cherries in bowl

Aren’t they beautiful? I love the blushing appearance and they are deliciously sweet. I decided to make a cherry pie with a third of them and the rest have been used to make one of my favourite drinks, cherry brandy, which will make its own post soon.

I have never made a cherry pie with fresh cherries before as it is unusual to have a bounty of cherries in England. You really do need to have access to a tree, either yours or a friend’s, and you need to get in there before the wildlife does. To buy cherries from the supermarket for a pie would seem like the ultimate extravagance as the price can be astounding. Many a time the girls have convinced me to pick up a bag of cherries, for me then to nearly have heart failure when the price appears on the scales. So it felt like a very special treat indeed to be serving this pie for sunday dessert.

500g cherries, stoned
50g vanilla sugar (or ordinary sugar if you don’t have any vanilla flavoured)
1 dessertspoon cornflour

200g plain flour
2 tbsp icing sugar
100g butter
2 egg yolks
1 -2 tbsp cold water

Milk to glaze

Method

I macerated the cherries with the sugar and cornflour for about an hour, whilst the pastry was made and chilled but I don’t really think it is necessary. Mix them together well in a bowl.

Make the pastry by mixing together the flour and the icing sugar and rubbing in the butter using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and start to bring together into a dough, adding the water if necessary. You can do it all in a food processor too for ease. Shape the pastry into a flattened disc and wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Once chilled, remove the clingfilm from the pastry and cut into two pieces one slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger piece to fit your pie dish and press into the sides. Pour in the cherry mixture, spreading to an even layer. Brush a little milk around the rim of the dish. Roll out the smaller piece to fit the top of the dish and seal well around the edges. Brush all over with a little milk and cook in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6, or on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga for 25- 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

Serve warm with cream or custard, but it’s good cold the next day too.

Shortbread fruit slice

shortbread fruit slice 2

This is another fruity variation on a traditional treat. I didn’t plan this succession of posts in this way. We have a friend who makes the most delicious fruit slice. We have asked her for the recipe but she does that quick change of subject thing that suggests that it is a closely guarded family secret. So, each time she cooks us a batch I try my best to work out how she does it. I haven’t cracked it yet. Both my girls love Mrs C’s fruit slice and devour it as soon as it arrives. So, the experiments will have to continue until I crack it.

I think Mrs C’s is a pastry rather than a shortbread but it’s a pastry quite like no other. I tried my own version with a quick flaky pastry but it wasn’t the same. In fact it was nowhere near. Then I tried this, just in case. I knew it wouldn’t be the same as Mrs C’s but it is pretty good. So, if you don’t have the benchmark of Mrs C’s fruit slice to stand up to you could be very satisfied with these. They take the shortbread just one step further in the decadence stakes. They travel well so make good picnic or fete treats and with the summer holidays just around the corner we are hoping that there will be plenty of opportunities for picnics, and in the open air, rather than in the car.

For the shortbread base and topping
425 g (15 0z) plain flour
150g (5oz) caster sugar
275g (10oz) butter

For the fruit filling
150g (5oz) mixed dried fruit (raisins, currants, glace cherries, mixed peel etc)
25g (1oz) soft light brown sugar
juice of 1 orange

Method

Preheat the oven to 160°c, gas mark 3, or place a rack on the bottom rung of the baking oven of the Aga. Grease a 26cm square tin.

To make the fruit filling, pour the orange juice into a small saucepan and add the sugar and fruit. Bring to a very gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes, until the fruit has plumped up. Take off the heat and allow to cool.

To make the shortbread, place the flour, sugar and cubed butter into a food processor and pulse until it begins to come together. If you don’t have a food processor then place the flour in a large bowl, stir in the sugar and using your fingertips rub in the cubed butter, until it begins to make pea sized pieces.

Spread half of the shortbread mixture in the bottom of the tin and press down well with the back of a spoon. Spread the fruit evenly over and cover with the remaining shortbread dough. Press down well with the spoon. Prick all over with a fork. Place in the centre of the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden. Sprinkle with caster sugar and cut into squares. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Mincemeat bars

Mincemeat, like dogs, shouldn’t be just for Christmas. My mum makes mincemeat every year and some years I do too. Whenever mum passes me a jar I hurry to make mince pies and three batches have been made so far this year. Well, one morning this week I was practising my usual habit of perusing a recipe book whilst eating my early morning breakfast (everyone, pets included, knows better than to request my attention at this point in the morning) and came across Delia Smith’s Wholefood Mincemeat Slices in her Christmas book. These seemed to me a very good idea indeed. I have used butter instead of margarine, wholegrain spelt flour instead of wholemeal and added a sprinkling of flaked almonds and very delicious and moreish they are too. Delia, as always, has come up trumps.

150g butter, cubed
75g dark brown sugar
225g wholemeal spelt flour (or you could use wholemeal ordinary flour, but spelt is especially delicious)
100g rolled oats
250g mincemeat
flaked almonds

Method

You will need a 28 x18 cm shallow pan, either buttered well or lined with silicone. I use my half Aga roasting tin and line it with Aga silicone liner.

Place the butter and sugar in a large pan and heat over a medium heat until the butter is melted. Pour the flour and oats into the pan and mix well.

Spread half the mixture over the bottom of the prepared tin and press down well. Spoon over the mincemeat and spread as evenly as possible. Cover with the remaining oat mixture and press down well with the back of a spoon or your knuckles. Sprinkle over flaked almonds.

Place in a preheated over at 180°c, or the baking oven of the Aga for 18-20 minutes until golden brown. As soon as it comes out of the oven cut into twelve slices but leave it to cool completely in the tin. When completely cool remove from the tin and enjoy.

Talking about dogs not being just for Christmas, here is the new addition in our house.

We are currently fostering her from the RSPCA whilst she settles into family life, but we plan to adopt her and keep her for many, many Christmases. And, in spite of me saying everyone knows not to disturb me during early morning breakfast and recipe perusing, Maggie gets special dispensation.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

We have had so many pumpkins in the garden this year. They have trailed themselves across paths, down walls (with the pumpkins hanging on for dear life) and jostled for space with the other veg (they have won, hands down). We have grown pumpkins for several years, but I have always  scooped the seeds out and chucked them into the chicken pot*.  What was I thinking? Roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious. The transformation is startling. If you are tempted to try a seed part of the way through cooking, when you think they might be done, you will be bitterly disappointed and think that I have gone mad telling you to make these. But if you wait until they caramelise then you will understand. Something happens in their chemistry that makes you think you added crushed chilli when you weren’t concentrating properly. Be warned, these little bites are addictive and you will find yourself cooking with pumpkin just so you can eat the roasted seeds.

This weekend, when every one will be scooping out their Halloween pumpkins, is the perfect time to enjoy these. By the way, when did we move on from scooping out swedes?

I don’t bother washing the seeds as I think bits of pumpkin flesh hanging on to them add a lot to their flavour. I scrape them out, remove most of the flesh, lay onto a lightly oiled baking tray so that they are in a single layer and sprinkle with a little more oil and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place into a preheated oven at 140°c, gas mark 1 or the simmering oven of the Aga and cook for about 30-40 minutes. Keep an eye on them as the ones at the edge of the tray may start to burn and will need stirring into the middle. When they have a good caramel brown colour all over they are ready. Leave to cool a little and then dig in.

*I probably should explain that we have a pot that sits by the side of our sink and any veg scraps get thrown into it for our brood of hungry chickens. They are now missing out on pumpkin seeds. Poor, poor chickens.

Roasted tomato sauce

My last post was a tale of woe about the lack of damsons on the trees this year, compared to last. This summer has been a wash out here in the UK. We had a few  days which were beautifully sunny but they were few and far between. Nevertheless, the garden has performed quite well this year, despite the lack of summer or perhaps because of it. The runner beans have flourished and we tried a purple bean this year, which has been lovely, although it loses its colour when cooked and looks like a green bean. Sweetcorn has been a great success, last year it was hopeless, and it is hard to describe how sweet and delicious corn is when cooked within minutes of picking. We have pumpkins in abundance. So many, I am not sure what we will do with them all. I have so many cucumbers, from just the one plant, that I could supply the local supermarket.

Our tomatoes though have not been as successful as previous years. We tried several varieties and a yellow and a cherry variety have been the most successful. However, the woodlice really like the yellow variety and have been enjoying themselves no end once they were finished with the strawberries. As a result, no woodlice were spared when I was splitting a load of logs the other week. No longer do I have any sympathy with the wood louse! Despite all of this, we have still had enough tomatoes to make a few batches of this roasted tomato sauce. I have used it as a pizza sauce; mixed into a risotto to stuff a roasted pumpkin;  as a base for soup; and as a pasta sauce.

Roasting the tomatoes makes them sweeter and even more tomatoey. I add garlic cloves (unpeeled) and thyme or oregano, salt and pepper and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Cook them in a moderate oven (180°c, gas mark 4, the baking oven of the Aga) for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool a little, pop the garlic out of its skin, and then blitz the whole lot in the processor (or you could use a food mill).  I don’t bother to strain through a sieve, but if you want a smooth, seed-free sauce then you should.

A very good ham recipe

I cannot at all claim this recipe as my own. It comes from the wonderful book “Food in England” written in the 1950’s by Dorothy Hartley. If you are at all interested in the history of food or enjoy traditional recipes then I urge you to get this book. It is one that you will want to read whilst tucked up in bed on a winter’s night. It has many fantastic recipes and is packed full of historical facts and inspiration.

We had a party in the garden over the bank holiday weekend.  The August Bank Holiday marks the end of the British summer and as we have had a very disappointing summer this year, we thought “Hey, why not invite friends round to sit in our garden, drink , eat and be merry”.  Of course, this thought occurred to us when we were enjoying one of the rare warm days of early August. We had all our toes and fingers crossed for good weather, the Countryfile weather forecast said gales and torrential rain. But, the crossing of digits must have worked as Sunday was one of those rare fine, warm days, and, shockingly, Countryfile got it wrong.

Whenever we have friends round for a big bash I always cook ham. They must be well and truly fed up with seeing it. I usually make is to this recipe, but Dorothy had inspired me. She describes it thus, Even a “plain salted” ham comes up wonderfully in this bath, and for a rich home-cured it is the apotheosis. Who could resist?

I fiddled about with  her advice a little bit because I used what I had available in the garden. Which is, I think, what Dorothy would want. I also reduced the amount of black treacle from her advised 1lb to 3-4 tablespoons as I didn’t want the treacle to overpower with its sweetness.

You will need to ask the butcher how long your ham will need to soak for. I tend to soak my ham in cold water (enough to cover it) for at least 12 hours, changing the water twice.

This ham should be cooked the day before you need it so that it can cool in the cooking liquid overnight. So you will need to buy your ham three days before you want to serve it to allow for soaking, cooking and cooling.

You will need to find a pan that is large enough to easily take your ham with some room at the top.

You can do this recipe with any size ham. Bring the joint slowly to the boil, reduce to a simmer and use the following times as a guide:
900g – 1.5kg  simmer for 1 ½  to 2 hours
1.75kg – 2.5kg  for 2 to 2½ hours
2.75 -3kg for 2½ to 3 hours
3.5kg -4kg for 3½ to 4 hours
4.5kg – 5kg for 4½ to 5 hours
5.5kg to 6kg for 5 to 5½ hours
6.5kg – 6.75kg for 5½ to 6 hours
7kg for 6 hours

The ham will be ready when a skewer will easily go all the way through and the juices are running clear.

I made this recipe with a ham that weighed about 6kg.

Chop up an onion or two (including the skins, as Dorothy advises that they add a golden colour to the ham) and any vegetables that you may be using. I used an onion, carrot tops, a couple of carrots, three or four large parsnip leaves and two apples chopped roughly (with peel and core). Place these in the base of the pan.  Add whatever herbs and spices appeal to you. I added a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, marjoram (oregano), sage and dill. I also added 3 cloves, 4 juniper berries, 1 teaspoon of szechuan peppercorns, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns (feel free to use whatever herbs and spices you prefer or have to hand). Pour in a can of cider (500ml), add 4 tablespoons of soft brown sugar and 4 tablespoons of black treacle. Place ham on top of the vegetables and add enough cold water to cover the ham. Cover with the pan lid or tented foil (try to avoid the foil touching the ham as the salt will eat through the foil).

Bring slowly to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and simmer for the time sufficient to cook you ham, based on the times above. If you are cooking on an Aga then place the pan into the simmering oven after bringing to the boil. Remove from the  heat and allow the ham to cool in the cooking liquid. This will keep the ham really moist and make sure that all the flavours permeate the meat. I left mine to cool overnight.

Take the ham out of the cooking liquid and cut off the rind, leaving behind plenty of fat if you can. Score the fat and cover with an equal mixture of dry mustard powder and demerara sugar, patting it well to make it stick. Place in a baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or in the baking oven of the Aga for 20-30 minutes until the crust is golden and the ham is hot. Serve it hot, with lashings of parsley sauce (bechamel sauce with lots of fresh parsley added) or leave to cool to room temperature.

This joint was plenty for friends to enjoy and we have been enjoying sandwiches and I made a fidget pie. I will be making ham this way again.  Thank you Dorothy.

 

 

Wholemeal, nut and apple loaf

I make three or four loaves a week these days.  It is usually a white loaf or a spelt loaf.  Sometimes , if time is short, then it’s soda bread.  I felt like making something a bit different this week.  I had cashews loitering and apple juice open in the fridge and so this loaf was born.  You could make it with normal wholemeal flour and omit the yeast and make a soda bread if you are short of time.

I liked it so much that I have made it twice, once with the addition of ground almonds, replacing some of the flour, which makes it really lovely and nutty.

It’s a tasty and easy loaf to make.  It’s good with cheese (grilled or not, it’s up to you), with strawberry jam and with honey, or dipped into soup. It’s a substantial loaf that you can really get your teeth into.

400g strong wholemeal flour (or 300g flour and 100g ground almonds)
100g porridge oats
50g cashew nuts, bashed in a food bag with a rolling pin until nubbly
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp easy bake yeast
1 tsp runny honey
150ml apple juice
150ml water

Method

Butter a 2lb loaf tin.

Place the flour, ground almonds (if using), oats and cashews in a large bowl or freestanding mixer.  Add the yeast, the salt and the honey. Warm the apple juice and water until hand hot. Pour into the flour and mix well until combined.  You may need a spot more water, as it will depend on the flour you are using.  The dough wants to be slightly sticky. Roughly shape into the size of the tin and place in the tin.  Cover with a large plastic bag, making a tent shape so that the loaf has room to rise.  Leave in a warm place for about an hour until the loaf has risen almost to the top of the tin. Wholemeal loaves do not rise as much as white loaves.

Place in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga for about 35-40 minutes until the loaf is well browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  You may want to return it to the oven for another five minutes out of its tin to let the base crisp up. When cooked place it on a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Shropshire Mint Cakes

Well, this is my first post in what I hope will become a series of Shropshire recipes. ( I suppose Fidget Pie was the first, but hey…).  Over the summer I found three books on Amazon,

and I found another today, which is winging its way through the British postal system as we speak.  I want to share some of these recipes with you to celebrate the traditional recipes of my lovely county.

The reason I found this fourth book is because I found the recipe for these mint cakes in the red and white book by Mary de Saulles, unfortunately the list of ingredients omits the sugar. So I found myself searching for the original recipe to find out how much sugar I should be using and I think it is in this book and I found the recipe online.

Whilst searching for this though, I found that a recipe for Shropshire Mint Cakes was published in an Australian newspaper on 24th April 1935.  How fantastic is that?  A Shropshire lass in search of a local recipe is assisted by a newspaper article published on the other side of the world 76 years ago.  The internet is a marvellous tool.

I couldn’t use this recipe either though because this one doesn’t seem to specify the amount of butter that you use.  The search has also revealed that like all recipes these little cakes can be adapted, one recipe uses currants but suggests that you could also use dried figs and the other recipe suggests the use of both currant and mixed peel. One recipe suggests that you make them by spreading the mixture over a square of pastry and topping with another square, cook, then slice into squares.  The other suggests that you make individual cakes.  I thought the latter would make for a neater cake, especially if my lack of dexterity became involved.

The Shropshire Mint Cake is a bit like the Eccles Cake, but with the addition of fresh mint.  You can really taste the mint and at first you think that these might be an acquired taste, but I can assure you that they soon become just that.  I had acquired a taste well before I was eating the fourth one in a row, warm from the oven (my well-known lack of willpower again!).

I urge you to give them a try.

For the pastry:

200g plain flour
100g butter, diced
1 tbsp caster sugar
enough cold water to mix

For the filling:
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
80g caster sugar
80g currants
50g softened butter
1 egg to glaze

Method

First of all place the chopped mint into a bowl and add 40g of the caster sugar and mix well. Leave to sit for at least an hour until the mint juices start to run.

Make the pastry by placing the flour and the diced butter in a bowl and rubbing the butter into the flour using the tips of your fingers, lifting your hands up high over the bowl to incorporate air. (I would use my food processor, but it broke and is at my Dad’s as he valiantly tries to repair it for me – thank goodness for Dads). When it looks like fine breadcrumbs, stir in the tablespoon of sugar and add enough water to make a smooth dough. Flatten the dough slightly into a disc and  wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for thirty minutes.

Place the currants, mint mixture, remaining sugar and the butter into a bowl and using a fork combine well.

Roll the pastry quite thinly and cut out discs using a scone/cookie cutter.  Place half of these discs onto two baking sheets. Then place teaspoonfuls of the currant mixture in the middle of the discs. I used a scone cutter that measures 6 cm and this made 24 little cakes.

Beat the egg with a fork and then brush a little of the egg all around the edge of the discs of pastry and place another disc on top, sealing well around the edge by pressing with your finger.  Brush the egg all over the tops and then place the baking trays in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or the middle/bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Remove carefully onto a wire rack and leave to cool a little before you sample your first one.

 

 

 

 

Chorizo, lentil and bean stew

It’s mid October and the light for taking photos is lousy, but the weather (cold and blustery) demands comfort food of the highest order.  Mr OC had phoned at lunchtime asking if I had any recipes for lentils that he could make for his lunch the next day.  I took this as a hint that he wanted me to make something with lentils that he could take for his lunch. So we had some of this for tea with a pumpkin and potato mash and he took the rest in his flask today.

Serves 4

100g chorizo, diced chunkily
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 sprig rosemary, chopped finely
4 sage leaves, chopped finely
1 bay leaf
a glug of Madeira or Marsala or sherry (optional)
400g tin of tomatoes
100g split red lentils
400g tin of beans (I used three bean salad but you could use cannellini, kidney or whatever you like or have)
600ml vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste at the end of cooking

Method

Fry the onion in a little oil in a large saucepan for a few minutes until starting to go translucent.  Add the carrots and the garlic and continue to fry for a few more minutes until the carrot is beginning to become tender.  Add the chorizo and the herbs and fry until the oil begins to leach from the chorizo.  Pour in a good glug of Madeira wine (if using) and continue to cook until that has almost evaporated.  Pour in the tomatoes, the beans, lentils and the stock.  Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for at least 40 minutes (I left it in the simmering oven of the Aga for two hours).  Taste and season accordingly with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread or pumpkin and potato mash like I did last night.  A meal fit for a king, or a man who likes his stew.