Toffee Apple Yoghurt

Toffee Apple Yoghurt

What glorious weather we’re having.   It has been pretty sparkly all week, incentivising the plants to put some genuine effort into growing.  Which is kind of them as our garden was starting to look a little like a wilderness, and is now looking like a wilderness with purpose.  As one of my nieces once said,

‘I love your garden, it always looks so wild’

Which is now exactly how I like to think of it.  A wild garden specifically groomed to be that way for all the wee beasties that need ‘wildflower’ plants, to flourish.  In abundance.

Meanwhile, I am having to do a shift in thought around food as we slowly move from more comfort based carbohydrate stuff, to rainbow food.  I know, there’s me showing my hipness and complete ability to be down with the cookery buffs…

Rainbow food, for any of those of you who may not have heard the phrase before (to be honest, I’m very late to the zeitgeist party) is about all the colours you have on your plate.  And apparently, if you manage a rainbow, you’ve got it covered.  Yep, that’s it.  Not really rocket science is it?

So today, I am going to extol the virtues of adding your own fruit compote to natural yoghurt.  Which actually has nothing to do with rainbow food, although in my defence I am, as I write this, baking some rice in the oven which has red, yellow, and orange pepper in it, along with sultanas, green beans, chicken and pork.  But I digress…

There are two wonderful things about adding your own flavour to plain yoghurt. Firstly, you can decide exactly what combination is for you and secondly you can monitor the amount of sugar that you are eating.

Now as you know, we gave up sugar for the whole of lent, for non religious, timeframe reasons.  And although we now have no restrictions per se, the knowledge we’ve gained of unnecessary sugars in food, has changed the way we eat.  Not dramatically, it has to be said, but enough to raise our levels of consciousness when it comes to sugar.

Which is why by sharing my knowledge you, too, can polish your halo if you make your own fruit yoghurt.

I peeled and cored a few wrinkly skinned apples and a ‘just on the turn’ pear, (I am also attempting to throw away as little food as possible) popped them in a pan, sprinkled some soft brown sugar over them, added a dash of water and left them to simmer until mushy.

It is here that I would like to point out that the type of sugar you use really will affect the taste.  Soft brown, for me, is perfect as it isn’t too dark but does add that slight toffee-ness.  Obviously, the darker the sugar the more molasses-like the taste.

Let it cool, and whizz up with the trusty steed.

Either stir or whizz into the yoghurt.  We use Grandpa Yoghurt, which is a local-ish natural bio yoghurt that the wee one’s Grandpa introduced us to.  You can use anything you fancy, but I recommend the more natural the better, as most ‘low fat’ products have something added to compensate, and nine times out of ten, it’s sugar.

Obviously yoghurt is wonderful with any type of fruit addition, and it’s actually a lovely way to experiment with food without too much effort.

I mean you could, if you were feeling truly rebellious, just eat the compote and yoghurt separately.  Now there’s a thing…

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Red Thai Curry

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I do believe we are officially experiencing summertime.  It’s glorious.  And with this season comes a whole array of foods to eat which compliment the heat.  In my head I have time to flick through recipes, buy new ingredients and potter in the kitchen, presenting my boys with yet another piece de resistance.  The reality is, there is never really enough time, and I end up, most of the time, falling back on old faithfuls. Things which I have the ingredients for, that don’t take too long to cook, and that I know everyone will enjoy.

When I was growing up, the summer staple was always some sort of food, with salad.  And every time we had salad, big Dave would exclaim something along the lines of,

‘Rabbit food again then?’

As a friend of mine once said, ‘I don’t do greens.  I don’t do anything with fibre’

There’s nothing quite like the soul destroying feeling of someone’s dinner disappointment.

So, with this in mind, I have incorporated a red Thai curry into my repertoire, which I believe ticks all the summer food boxes, without instigating the ‘summer salad’ conversation.  And it’s a doddle to make.

I usually use either a meaty fish (cod), pork or chicken strips, but sometimes I break the mold and just use vegetables.  Oh yes, living on the edge.  Anyway.

What I start with is a teaspoon of Mae Ploy Red Curry Paste, bought in a tub from my local supermarket which cuts out the faff of mixing together all the things I don’t have, and it keeps in the fridge for an eternity.  I think.  I add this into a wok with a splash of oil, a teaspoon of soft brown sugar, a splash of fish sauce and a dash of lime juice.  Mix together, warm through and add the meat.  If you’re using fish, skip this stage and add the fish in with the coconut milk as otherwise it breaks up too much.

Cook for five minutes or so.

I then add sliced red onion, orange, red and yellow peppers if I have all three, if not I put in whatever I do have, stir around for a wee while, and add a tin of coconut milk. Next I add mange tout, sugar snap peas, green beans, (once again, whatever I have in), and let them all cook in the milk until they look as though they’ve seen some heat**.

And that, my friends, is it!

If we’re eating it with noodles, I also add them, if we’re eating it with rice, I cook that alongside the curry and serve the two separately on the plate.

I do like to add some fresh chopped coriander right at the end, but more often than not, if I haven’t bought some that day, the stuff I have has either wilted or been semi frozen by my temperamental fridge.

It may not be totally authentic, but it tastes devine.

** Just a final thought, the peppers, beans, whatever you fancy veg really could do with having a crunch to them otherwise it does taste like ‘old people’s home’ food.

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.

 

 

 

Rice Pudding

 

 

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I woke up this morning and had just one thought.  Rice pudding.

I know some of you may say, ‘What on earth is she thinking, it’s summer’, and I partially agree with this thought.  Rice pudding conjurs up warm cozy fires, hand knitted jumpers and dark evenings.  The only thing I can think is that yesterday was cold, and today, although brighter and not full of that rain that is hardly rain at all but makes you very wet, I have had the thought, so now need to fulfil it.

I’m not too sure when my love of rice pudding started, but I have very fond memories of eating it with my Scottish grandparents, and then at home, when foods out of a tin were ‘the thing’, we would have Ambrosia Creamed Rice and prunes, which also emerged out of a tin.

However, as I ventured into adulthood, rice pudding slipped very low down the list of foods to eat or cook and has only really crawled back into the top one hundred in recent years.  It may be something to do with having children.

So, this is how I make it.  Grease a dish with butter and sprinkle on 120g of pudding rice.  On top of that sprinkle 60g of sugar.  Today I have used soft brown sugar as we still haven’t bought any castor sugar since last Sunday when we made the chocolate cake.  Now I’m not making excuses, but I really do love the taste of soft brown sugar, which more than likely means someone, somewhere has, or will prove soon, that soft brown sugar is two steps away from the devil himself, and unless you want to dance the light fandango very soon you should ‘step away from the soft brown’ now.  However, until that all comes to my attention I am going to remain blissfully ignorant.

Back to the rice pudding.  On top of the sugar I drip approximately one teaspoon of vanilla extract, then add 1 litre of full fat milk before adding 90g of butter and sprinkling with nutmeg.  It is then baked in a low oven, actually, the oven can be as low or as high as you like, what I mean is, it’s baked in an oven which is on a low heat, gas mark 2 for me, and left to do its thing for approximately 2.5 hours.

When you take it out of the oven, give it five minutes or so to get itself together, and serve.

We had it topped with strawberries as a nod to summer, which is delicious, but to be honest, nothing beats jam.  However, our 4 year old had a very astute observation to make about the rice pudding and strawberry combo.

4yo: Mummy, guess what happens to my strawberries when they have rice pudding on them?

Me: What?

4yo: They make the strawberries go warm

I think I see signs of genius emerging.