Courgette Cake

Courgette Cake

Having sampled this cake a coupe of years ago, made by one of my many talented and lovely friends, the memory of how wonderful it tasted has stayed with me, although I have never, until now, managed to rustle one up.

Turns out it is the simplest thing to make, and although I am still not eating sugar so therefore won’t be able to sample my goods, it will be going to the wee boy’s Kindergarten Spring Fayre, which is happening on Saturday so hopefully will all be eaten.  Actually, there is enough mixture to make two of then which, in my book, is a result.

This is what you will need:

3 eggs, 275ml sunflower oil – I used vegetable oil as I didn’t have any sunflower oil and I figured there can’t be that much difference – 350g caster sugar, 350g courgettes grated, 165g plain flour, 165g buckwheat flour – once again, I didn’t have any so I used wholemeal plain flour – 1tsp baking powder, 2 tspns bicarbonate of soda, 1tsp cinnamon, 175g raisins – I used sultanas, see previous excuse – 150g walnuts chopped.

Now then, here’s a thing with putting nuts into a cake.  I absolutely love them but the wee boy and his friends are going through a phase of ‘being allergic’ to things, which roughly translates as not liking them, so I have left the nuts out of this recipe as it has the ‘I’m allergic to nuts’ foray written all over it.  Instead I replaced them with a handful of chia seeds, for texture.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4. Then, either grease and line the base of two 900g/2lb loaf tins or, if you’re like me, you will have purchased, for absolutely no other reason than the thought that they might come in handy one day, a packet of paper loaf tin liners.  I was beginning to think they may have to be used for something to paint onto, but now I am completely absolved from buying ‘just in case stuff’, as they fit the tins perfectly.

Put all the ingredients together and mix to make a thick batter.  Pour into the cake tins.  Bake in the pre heated over for about an hour until the loaves are firm and a skewer comes out clean.  Sadly, I couldn’t remember what time I put the cakes in as I was ‘multi-tasking’.  However, I went by the smell of the oven and actually, although when I first tested them they weren’t quite done, I left them in a little longer, turning up the heat ever so slightly, and there was no dip at all.  Which has given me a completely disproportionate belief that I know what I’m doing.

Cool the cakes a little before turning out on a wire rack.

I have left one of the cakes without anything on top but the other now has a glaze made up of lime juice and granulated sugar. Of course I am unable to tell you what that will taste like but I reckon it should compliment the cake well.  I will be able to tell though, because when you sell cake at a Fayre, people never come back for a second slice if it’s not palatable.

I’ll let you know what happens.

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Apple Crumble for One

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It can be tricky being the only person in the house who is eating sugar, hence a request from the wee boy for apple crumble a few days ago, has not really had the attention paid to it that usually, it would.

However, I have rectified the situation today and whipped up a lovely little crumble, just for him.  In fact, I have a feeling I may have gone slightly overboard on the sweetness.  I cut up an apple and mixed it into a small glass jar that already had some syrup in it.  In my mind I was tidying the place up.  I can only stand small bowls of this, that and the other, around for so long.  So on reflection, it may be slightly over sweet.  Not to worry though, I have counterbalanced this possibility by making rather a large amount of a flour, butter, sugar and oats, crumble topping.

The thing is, as I’m still not eating anything with sugar in it, I’ll never know.  Anything the wee one doesn’t eat will either be hoovered up by son #1 on his return tomorrow, or left in the fridge to go slightly mouldy before being thrown out.

Meanwhile, the gloriousness of being five continues.

Wee boy, looking out of the window:  Mummy, I can see a bird with a white head

Pause

Wee boy, still looking:  And a grey round

Me: A what?

WB: A grey round

Me: You mean a grey body?

WB: Yes

Me: I prefer grey round, shall we call it that?

WB: Ok

I never want these conversations to end

Strawberry Cake

strawberry cake

We are nearing the end of our family birthday season as son #1 celebrated his 11th birthday yesterday.  As usual, we made a birthday cake which the wee boy decided should be a strawberry cake.  In December.

Funnily enough, I had seen some strawberries (from Egypt) in our local supermarket the other day as I was flying in for yet another thing that I had forgotten, so we, once again, flew into the shop and picked up a couple of punnets of strawberries.

I made a Victoria Sponge which consisted of 225g of butter, castor sugar and self raising flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 4 eggs.  But instead of adding vanilla extract, put a splash of strawberry essence into the mix.

Now here’s an interesting thing.  I used to cream the butter and sugar together, add the eggs and extract/essence then sift in the flour and baking powder before folding it all into the creamed butter scenario.  However, I watched this very informative food history programme a couple of months ago which said that the only reason people sifted their flour, was to make sure there were no bugs or remnants of other wee beasties, hanging out in the flour.  No other reason.  So, now I just shove the whole lot into my glorious Kenwood and turn the knob on.

I tell you what, I think the cake comes out lighter than it used to.  Obviously both tins of mixture, when cooked, still resemble an attempt at K2, but that’s my oven.

So, back to the cake.  Having successfully cooked the sponge I turned my attention to the icing and, having tasted the strawberries, decided that they were not pleasant enough to plonk on top of the cake, and went on to severely reprimand myself for even considering buying strawberries in December.  However, as I had already purchased said offending article, I thought it probably best to whizz them up with icing sugar and a little butter to bring out their sweetness and make a beautiful coloured icing.

And this is where everything went a little pear shaped.

Firstly, I hadn’t taken into consideration the amount of water strawberries hold, naturally.  So, having whizzed up the amounts I normally use (half amount of butter to icing sugar) I found myself faced with a beautiful river of deep pink sweetness. No problem, I thought, I’ll just add more icing sugar.  After all, I had plenty.

After the whole jar of icing sugar had been used to no avail, I then did that thing which I presume most people do when they haven’t quite come to terms with the inevitable.  I opened the fridge door, and looked inside.

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned it before, but our fridge is a little temperamental and has taken upon itself to make unilateral decisions as to the level of cold it pumps through itself.  Recently, it’s gone to full blast, almost freezing. As a consequence of which, a can of fizzy pop that has been lingering in the fridge for the last few months, decided it had had enough of hanging around in the ever increasing cold with no attention being given to it, and exploded.  Inside the fridge.

The thing about Christmas, is that the amount of time I can dedicate to menial tasks diminishes exponentially with the amount of time left until the big day.  In reality, this means that anything, such as the fridge wearing the after effects of an exploding can of pop, that should really be given my full attention, is given the ‘quick flick’ treatment.  As in, wipe away what you can see, leave the deep clean for another day.

I know, it’s appalling behaviour and I should feel much more ashamed than I do.  It’s on the list.

Back to the icing.  Having stared, mid distance, into the unappealing fridge, I realised that I had no option but to go out and buy some more icing sugar.  Which I duly did.  And this is where things took another interesting turn.

It seems that the weekend before Christmas, the world and his wife suddenly takes a fancy to buying icing sugar.

Of all the things that worry me, my local supermarket running out of icing sugar has just never made an appearance.   Until now.  Thankfully there was a box of royal icing sugar hiding away at the back of the shelf, so I swiped it up, paid for it, and made a quick exit.

To be honest, it didn’t make that much difference, and I should have maybe let it get itself together in the fridge for a while before popping it onto the cake however, as you all know, birthdays are only 24 hours long, and the clock was ticking.

You’ll be pleased to hear that eventually, everything came together and we managed to put candles onto a sloping cake sat in the middle of a strawberry river. But, as always, once a candle or two is lit, the magic always appears.  And yesterday was no exception.

It tastes pretty good too.

Now then, what else do I have to do?

*pulls out a list as long as your arm*

Carrot Cake

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Now for all of you cake lovers out there, and even for those of you who shrug with a nonchalance which says ‘it’s ok, but I could take it or leave it’, this is THE best carrot cake.  So much so, that the wee boy has put in a request to make one especially for one of my lovely nieces, who was 15 yesterday, so that when we see her again tomorrow, we can sit and indulge ourselves, even though the actual day has gone. Although, as far as birthdays go, I’m a huge advocate for stringing them out for as long as anyone is prepared to go along with the idea.  After all, it only happens once a year.  And just as an aside, why is it so difficult to understand that a birthday is a celebration of a year gone by, as in, you have lived 15 years, not the year ahead?

Back to the cake.

Firstly, do the thing with the tin and put the oven on.  I’m gas mark 3.

Next sieve all dry ingredients, 4oz wholemeal self raising flour, 4oz wholemeal plain flour, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ginger (all ground), and 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda into a bowl.  Add the bran bits at the bottom of the sieve.  If you forget to sieve, or can’t quite be bothered with the faff, the cake will still be delicious.

Whisk 8floz vegetable oil, 6oz soft brown sugar, 4 large eggs and 2 tablespoons golden syrup together.  Add to dry ingredients and mix.

At this juncture I would like to share a little story.  Son #1 and I had a disagreement one day regarding eggs.  He was adamant that you should crack them into a bowl before adding them to the ingredients.  I, on the other hand insisted that was not necessary.  That he should learn to live a little, trust his instincts and just crack the eggs straight into the mixture.  Obviously he has a point. Theoretically, eggs should be cracked into a bowl first to ensure there is no shell in the mixture. But cooking is a creative outlet, where instincts work alongside confidence.  If you don’t learn to trust what you can do, (admittedly with practise), you will never grow into your potential.  A much bigger story than just eggs.

However, we reached an impasse, which is when I had to remind him, once again, that until he is 18, it doesn’t matter what his opinion may be, I am right, even if I’m not, because I’m the grown up and it’s my house.  Of course when he is 18, he will then be allowed to have his own opinion, and hopefully, his own house.  I always say this to him, slightly sardonically, in the hope that one day he will see the layers of irony.

Back to the cake.

I am not a fan of grating carrots, and although it only takes a few minutes, I dread it. I know I could go to the supermarket and buy a bag of grated carrots, but I just cannot bring myself to do that. So, this is the point we’re at.   Add, via grating or otherwise, 12oz carrots and 2oz chopped pecan nuts into the mixture.  Stir.

Pour into prepared tin, plonk in the oven, and ‘quality control’ the left over mixture.

Bake for 1 hour, unless you have a temperamental oven in which case leave it for 1 hour and 10 minutes before even thinking about having a look.

Take out, release from the tin onto a cooling rack, and gloat at it’s perfection.  Just a little tip here. I find that cakes which have been cooked in one of those springform tins, (which is how I cook this one), when they’re cooling can, if you’re not careful, get a little dry around the edges.  So after about 10 minutes cooling, I loosely wrap the cake in some greaseproof paper.  It takes a little longer to cool, but it’s worth it.

When cold, add the topping.

Now, I am a big fan of what the Americans call ‘frosting’ on this cake.  It involves mixing together 7oz cream cheese, 2oz softened butter, 2oz sifted icing sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence, or lemon/orange juice. Depending on what takes your fancy.  Plonk on the top.

Make a cup of tea.  Sit down with friends, family or just on your own, cut a slice and enjoy.  You see, I’m right aren’t I?  THE best carrot cake.

 

 

 

Making Bread

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Every so often, I make bread.  Now don’t get too giddy just yet, because, I don’t do the whole ‘mother earth’ thing and knead until I’m coming out in a small sweat, no, no, no, I have my outfit to think of.  Although I was given the loveliest of aprons as part of a Christmas present from my big sister a couple of years ago, but I digress.

My favourite recipe is as follows: 14 fl oz of warm water taken from a kettle which has boiled recently, but not too recently.  My rule of thumb is, if you could make a cup of tea with it and it doesn’t taste like dishwater, the water is too hot.  Next I add two tablespoons of butter, although I have used olive oil and it is just as delicious and great for those who are lactose intolerant.  The way I add my flour may seem a little kookie to you, but I tried doing it all in one go and it just didn’t taste the same.  So, I add 10.5oz of strong plain white flour followed by another 10.5oz of the very same strong plain white flour.  And here I must write about the flour.

I always use ‘Bradshaws, ORION high quality strong white flour which is grown, ground and bagged within a mile of where Big Dave lives.  Big Dave is my dad.  Every so often he will call me up and we arrange to rendezvous, him with a bag of flour, me with a bag of buns.  I promise you it is the most loveliest of flours you will ever bake bread with.  And, I believe, the secret ingredient.

On top of all that I put two teaspoons of sugar, two teaspoons of salt and two teaspoons of dried yeast.

It is all then put into the bread maker, popped onto the dough setting, and left to do its thing.  I leave it for another ten minutes or so when the bread maker has finished, before putting onto a floured surface, kneading for moments, cutting into small circles and placing onto floured baking trays.

I then let the little plump circles of potential heaven, (a nod to Nigella there) rise for around fifteen minutes in a warm space with a tea towel over them and finally pop them into a warmed oven, gas mark 6, for around ten minutes.  Remembering, of course, to remove the tea towel.  You may think it would be impossible to forget, but trust me, in my ‘looks to camera’ moments, I almost have.

There is nothing quite like the smell of home cooked bread wafting around the kitchen.  Except for perhaps, the taste of just cooked bread, buttered, with a glorious cup of tea.  And sometimes, just sometimes, I add honey… delicious.

One goddess point for me I think, no?