Tag Archives: dried fruit

Spiced prunes

This week is National Breakfast Week and by pure chance I was going to tell you about these prunes anyway. I have to eat within ten minutes of waking up or I am horrible. That means that I need something easy to eat. A year or two ago that would have been a bowl of cereal. But now I find that they taste either of cardboard or sugar. I have made my own muesli for the past year or so. This is simply a mix of oats, nuts and whatever dried fruit I have in the cupboard, eaten with milk or greek yoghurt. I sometimes make granola too. But I needed a change. The idea of stewed prunes just appealed to me. I am not sure why, as the very words ‘stewed prunes’ has connotations attached to it that you don’t really want to think about first thing in the morning. That, perhaps, is why I chose to title this post ‘spiced prunes’; that sounds so much more appealing and exotic and doesn’t conjure up grandmas quite so easily.

These are easy to make, taste delicious and you make a big batch and it will keep in the fridge for a week or so, no trouble at all. I eat them with a big dollop of yoghurt stirred in. I forgot to buy some prunes this week and now I have run out and I am missing them. So, now, against all the odds and the “who’d have thought it”s, I am a confirmed stewed (aka spiced) prune eater. Give them a try and you will be too.

You can ring the changes with whatever spices you fancy. I like star anise, cinnamon and ginger but cardamom is good too. Try whatever appeals to you. It doesn’t need any sugar as the prunes are naturally sweet. I have tried adding a slice of lemon or a slice of orange but the stringency didn’t appeal to me. Give it a go though if you think you might like it.

250g ready-to-eat prunes (this amount lasts me a week of breakfasts, just for me)
water
your choice of spice, I use one star anise, half a cinnamon stick and a teaspoonful of finely chopped fresh ginger

Method
Put the prunes in a saucepan, add enough water to cover and with about 1cm of extra water. Add the spices. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down a little and simmer for about 10 minutes until the water is syrupy. Take off the heat. Put into a bowl, once they are cool cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge and eat whenever you feel like it.

Honestly, they are really delicious and probably very good for you.

 

Rock cakes

Rock cakes

These little cakes are something else I have been making quite a bit recently. A few months ago my nine-year old daughter came home and said this: “Mum, my friend E has rock cakes in her lunch box and I really like them”. Ah yes, I recognise a gauntlet thrown when I see one.  So there I was at 6.19 am the next morning making rock cakes to go into her lunch box. You can’t make rock cakes the day before. They need to be made and then eaten, preferably still warm after only a few minutes spent relaxing on a wire rack. But they are also acceptable at lunchtime when baked in the morning. Apparently.

I hadn’t made them for years before this. I don’t know why because they are delicious. I do know why, I had forgotten how good they are. The name rock cake doesn’t exactly sell them to you I realise, but really they are soft, gently spicy and very, very good. Make them as soon as you can, but not necessarily at 6.19 am, if you can help it.

I make mine in the food processor which means they are a matter of minutes to make.

Makes 12 – 15 cakes

225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp mixed spice
100g butter, softened
50g demerara sugar
100g dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, candied peel, a mixture – anything you have in the cupboard)
1 egg and 1 tbsp milk, beaten lightly together

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°c, gas mark 6, or use towards the bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga. Grease a baking sheet.

Place the flour, baking powder and mixed spice in the bowl of a food processor or in a large bowl. Cube the butter and either pulse until it looks like fine breadcrumbs or if doing it by hand rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips and a light touch. Add the sugar and the fruit. Add the egg and milk mixture and pulse again until it comes together or mix with your hands until it comes together in a soft dough.

Spoon small mounds of mixture onto the greased baking sheet, you want them to look rough edged like a rock. Spoon a little extra demerara sugar over each one. Place in the preheated oven and cook for about ten minutes until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack, leave for a minute or two and then eat or wait until lunchtime.

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.

Fruit loaf bread pudding

A bit unusual for us this, but this morning I found myself with about half of the Fruit Loaf left.  Now, I made this three days ago, so whilst I was happy to have one more slice toasted I feared that the rest might end up as chicken food.

My youngest loves bread pudding, so it seemed the obvious way of getting the rest of the loaf consumed.  Sorry chickens!

Actually this is the perfect way to use up this loaf, my normal bread pudding recipe requires dried fruit, mixed spice and the zest of an orange.  Well, all of this is already in there, with the marmalade taking the place of the orange zest.  So this was easy peasy to put together and tastes really lovely. I did add a little extra mixed spice and some nutmeg because I love aromatic bread pudding.

750 – 800 g (10-12 oz) leftover fruit loaf
50g (2oz) melted butter
300ml (½ pint) milk
1 egg
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
75g (3 oz) dark brown muscovado sugar

Method

Break the bread into a large bowl.  Traditionally you are supposed to remove the crusts but it would be a shame to remove the crust of this loaf as it is so tasty so I didn’t.  I just made sure the crusty bits were broken up quite small.  Combine the melted butter and the milk and pour over the bread.  Give the mixture a good stir and then set aside to soak for 30 minutes.

Beat the egg and add to the bready mixture, along with the spices and sugar and stir well to combine.

Butter a shallow dish, I used my ceramic flan dish with measures 23 cm.  Pour the mixture in and level the top.  Place in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the Baking Oven of the Aga for about 1 hour.  It may take a little longer, depending on your oven.  It should be golden brown and firm to the touch. Allow to cool a little.  It’s good warm or cold.

 

Fruit loaf

This is a loaf that gets made again and again in this house.  Ingredients wise it’s not too different from the hot cross buns or the spiced fruit buns that I have posted about before.  I think, though, that this loaf is perhaps a little quicker to make as you add marmalade and so there is no need to zest and squeeze fruit. There is also something very satisfying about having a loaf that you can keep going back to and cutting a bit more off. It is lovely when it’s still vaguely warm from the oven, spread with butter, but it’s just as nice toasted the next day for breakfast ( or mid morning, or lunch, or all three).

The recipe is an adaptation of the Raisin Bread recipe in The River Cottage Family Cookbook (ISBN 0 340 82636 3).  You can use any combination of dried fruit that you like or have available as long as it totals 150g.

500g strong white bread flour
1 tsp mixed spice
7g easy action yeast
2 scant teaspoons fine salt
40g cranberries
40g currants
40g dried blueberries
30g sultanas
1 egg
125 ml warm water
125ml warm milk ( I tend to use just boiled water on top of the cold milk and that gets the temperature about right, you want it hand hot)
2 tbsp marmalade

For the glaze:
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp water
(Or you could glaze with a couple of tablespoons of warmed honey)

Method

If you have a freestanding mixer then all you do is put all of the ingredients into the bowl and using the dough hook mix on speed 2 for two minutes.  Turn it out of the bowl and manhandle into a ball.  Place back in the bowl and cover with a large plastic bag for 1 hour to 1 ½ hours until it has doubled in size.

If you are mixing by hand, then put the flour, yeast, dried fruit, mixed spice and salt into a bowl.  Measure the milk and water in a jug and beat in the egg.  Add the liquid and the marmalade to the flour and using a flat knife such as a pallette  knife, begin to mix together.  When it is all combined, tip it out onto a lightly floured worktop and begin to knead.  To do this you hold half the dough down with one fist and stretch the other half away from you with the heel of your other hand.  Fold the dough back onto itself, turn and repeat the process for about ten minutes or until your arms fall off, whichever is the soonest. Make it into a ball shape and place into a bowl and cover with a large plastic bag until doubled in size.

Grease a loaf tin with butter. Take off the plastic bag and gently press the air out of the dough using your fingertips.  Lift the dough out of the bowl and shape into a log shape by stretching and folding.  Be gentle though. Place the dough into the loaf tin and cover again for 20-30 minutes until it has risen by about half its size again.

Place in preheated oven at 220°c, gas mark 7 or the Roasting Oven of the Aga for about twenty minutes until golden and sounds hollow when turned out and tapped on its base. Take the loaf out of its tin and place on a wire rack.

Just before the end of the cooking time, put the sugar and water for the glaze in a small pan over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat.  Brush the glaze over the loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven and is sitting on the wire rack.

Allow to cool a little before taking your first slice.

Boiled fruit cake

With it being the summer holidays, the girls and I have done lots of picnics on our days out and this cake is excellent for picnics.  It’s easy to make, is very moist, lasts for ages and is absolutely delicious.  In fact Mr OC loves it so much he moans with joy when eating it!

I have adapted it from Jill Brand’s version in Best-kept Secrets of the Women’s Institute Cakes and Biscuits (ISBN 0 74322 111 7) and reading through her introduction for this cake now she also says it’s ideal for picnics, so I must be right.  Jill uses half and half wholemeal plain flour and self-raising flour.  I use half spelt flour, half plain flour and two teaspoons of baking powder instead.  The spelt flour gives it a lovely nutty flavour and texture.

Because I am lucky enough to have an Aga I make this cake in the evening and then leave it to cook slowly in the simmering oven all night and then check with a skewer when I get up and if I think it needs it I bake it for about 10 mins in the baking oven just to finish it off. It is deliciously moist this way and has the added bonus of filling the house with the scent of fruit cake with a generous dollop of mixed spice all night. But I have also cooked it the normal way and the way I will tell you about in the method below and it is almost as delicious.

For the mixed fruit I use whatever I have in the house, but it normally includes equal measures of raisins, sultanas and cranberries.  I have tried dates but I didn’t chop them finely enough and I found them a bit mealy.

450g (1lb) mixed dried fruit
200g (8oz) caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g  (4oz) butter
200ml (7 floz) water
2 eggs
100g (4oz) spelt flour
100g (4oz) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground mixed spice
50g (2oz) glace cherries, chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 160°c (gas mark 3) and line the base and sides of a 18 cm round cake tin.

In a large pan place the mixed fruit, sugar, butter, bicarbonate of soda and the water and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes and then take off the heat and cool for 15 minutes.

Beat in the eggs.  Sieve the flours, baking powder and mixed spice into the boiled fruit.  I add the cherries to the flour whilst I am sieving them so that they get a good covering of flour in the process and this helps to stop them sinking to the bottom of the cake when cooking.  Add the cherries and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the tin and either cook in an Aga in the way described in the introduction or in the preheated oven for 1¾ – 2 hours until a skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Granola

I still have some Total Yoghurt!  Well, they did give me a lot.  I have been meaning to make granola for ages.  Mr OC eats a lot of muesli and I have a sweet tooth so this is something that pleases both of us.

Before I made it I did a Google search to find different recipes that I could adapt to suit us and I was really pleased to see that Margaret’s post on her lovely blog Kitchen Delights came near the top.  My recipe is very similar to the one that Margaret uses, (if it meet’s Margaret’s expectations then who am I to argue?) just with a tweaking of added extras and a little less maple syrup.

It didn’t really clump together,maybe more maple syrup would have helped (so perhaps I should call it toasted,sweetened muesli instead?) but it tastes really good.  It is very good sprinkled over yoghurt or with milk.  It’s also lovely to dip your hand into when passing. The only problem I have with it is that I keep eating it.

300g porridge oats
100g pecan nuts
100g cashews
50g pumpkin seeds
50g pine kernels
20g macadamia
50 g dessicated coconut
40g dried cranberries
40g dried blueberries
40g dried cherries
100ml maple syrup
2 tbsp groundnut oil
2 tbsp local honey

Method

Spread the oats, nuts and seeds onto a baking sheet.  In a jug mix together the maple syrup, honey and oil.  Drizzle this over the oat mixture and stir.

Place the baking tray in the  centre of a preheated oven at 180°c and set the timer for five minutes.  It will take the mixture about 20 minutes in total to cook but you do need to stir it every five minutes because the mixture will cook quicker at the edges. When you have fetched it out and stirred it two or three times (about 15 minutes into the cooking) and it is beginning to colour add the desiccated coconut to the mix and stir to combine.  Cook for a further five minutes. When it looks and smells lovely and toasted take it out of the oven and leave to cool.  Add the berries and mix well.