Monday, 9 July 2012

Carrot cake, carrot cake & Carrot Cake!

Ok, so everyone has their favourite carrot cake recipe, but there's no harm in trying different ones - especially if for some silly reason you can't remember which recipe book has your favourite carrot cake recipe in, or you've gone through all your recipe books already and, unaware of course, have turned over two pages - the one with the treasured carrot cake recipe!

So I tried the recipe from Grandma's Best Recipes (I think it's been updated since I bought mine at ASDA about 3 years ago!)

'Grandma's' Classic Carrot Cake' (serves 12)
125g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
1t ground cinnamon
125g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
100ml sunflower oil
125g carrot, peeled and finely grated
25g desiccated coconut
25g walnuts chopped
walnut pieces to decorate
Icing:  50g softened butter; 50g soft cheese; 225g icing sugar; 1t lemon juice.

First problem - no self-raising flour, fortunately good old baking powder is always willing to be used!

Second problem - no walnuts! Surely you can't make a carrot cake without walnuts?! Of course you can, especially if you substitute Almonds!!!

And if you look carefully that spice jar is empty!

1. Preheat oven to 180C and lightly grease a cake tin - I never measure to see if it's the right size! - line the base with baking paper - sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. If I had Spray & Cook of course I wouldn't be wiping butter papers over my cake tin or lining it!

2. Sift the flour - and the baking powder, 1 teaspoon for every cup of flour - salt & ground cinnamon and stir in the brown sugar.

3.  Add the eggs and oil and mix well.

4. Stir in the grated carrot - not very 'finely grated' this time! - desiccated coconut and chopped ....nuts!

5.  Pour into tin and bake 20-25mins.

6. Icing: Beat butter, soft cheese (Philly cheese!), icing sugar and lemon juice until the mixture is fluffy and creamy.

7. Turn the cake out of the tin, cut into squares and then spread the icing over. Decorate with .... nuts - or not!

(At least the picture looks good!)    

The recipe I was really aiming for is the Mega carrot cake, the recipe was in the May 2009 Asda magazine.

Zest and juice of 1 large orange
175g sultanas
150g pecans, roughly chopped (not quite my substitute almonds!)
300g Self-raising flour
2 level tsps bicarbonate of soda
75g desiccated coconut
3 large eggs
250g light soft brown sugar
220ml sunflower oil
300g carrots (peeled weight) grated
100g butter softened
100g icing sugar
1T lemon juice
few drops of vanilla extract
300g full fat soft and creamy cheese

1. Preheat oven to 160C and prepare cake tin (said it all before, you know what to do!)
2. Put the orange zest, 2T juice and the sultanas in a bowl and leave for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile put the nuts on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 8 minutes.
4. Sift the flour, spice and bicarb, add half the nuts and coconut.
5. Whisk eggs, sugar and oil until sugar starts to dissolve.
6. Stir in sultanas and juice, carrots and flour.
7. Bake in tin for 1 hour.

Beat butter and icing sugar then stir in lemon juice, vanilla and cream cheese. Spread over the cake, sprinkle with nuts and then cut into slices.

This last recipe sounds more fiddly, but it's really moist and gooood!

Sweet Potato Tuna Jacket

This recipe was originally on BBC Good Food but of course I didn't have all the ingredients so more changes and ended up with another tasty dinner!

It took me quite a number of years - about 30 - to eventually buy, cook and eat Sweet Potatoes! They just didn't sound English enough for me way back then! The South African Sweet Potatoes however, seem to be different to what I am now buying back in the UK. 'English' Sweet Potatoes have a very orangey inside and seem to be much sweeter than I've had before!

The BBC recipe reads like this:
4 small sweet potatoes ( about 200g each)
185g can tuna in spring water, drained
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
1 small red chilli, deseeded and chopped
Juice of 1 lime
6T Greek yogurt
handful of coriander leaves.
1. Prick and microwave Sweet potatoes for 18-20 mins or until tender. Cut in half lengthways
2. Flake the drained tuna and arrange on the halved potatoes
3. Top with the red onion and chilli and squeeze over the lime juice.
4. Top with a dollop of yogurt and scatter the coriander over.

Needless to say, I'm not a chilli or lime fan so both those ingredients got dumped straight away!

For two of us:
1 sweet potato, scrubbed, pricked and microwaved until tender, turning halfway through the cooking. Put a small knob of butter in the potato and gently break up the potato 'flesh' in the jacket.

Mix & heat together gently in a pan : 
     1 can tuna, (I always buy in water)
     1/4 chopped or sliced onion - red does add colour but a white onion is just as good
     1/2 cup frozen peas
     sliced mushrooms
     2T (approx) of plain (Greek) yoghurt

Arrange the warmed tuna mix over the sweet potato, top with grated cheese and pop under the grill for a few moments.

Serve with your favourite salad.

Question: Yoghurt? Yogurt? !
In English, there are several variations of the spelling of the word, including yogurt, yoghurt, yoghourt, yogourt, yaghourt, yoghurd, joghourt, and jogourt. In the United Kingdom and Australia, yogurt and yoghurt are both current, yoghurt being more common while yogurt is used by the Australian and British dairy councils, and yoghourt is an uncommon alternative. In the United States, yogurt is the usual spelling and yoghurt a minor variant. In New Zealand, yoghurt is preferred by the New Zealand Oxford Dictionary.In Canada, yogurt is most common among English speakers, but many brands use yogourt, since it is an acceptable spelling in both English and French, the official languages of Canada.
Whatever the spelling, the word is usually pronounced with a short o (/ˈjɒɡət/) in the UK, with a long o (/ˈjɡərt/) in North America, Australia, Ireland and South Africa, and with either a long or short o in New Zealand.

Mother's Chicken Salad

It may be rainy & a little cool outside but it's still summer and salads are summer food!
(Maybe it doesn't look appetising in the picture but it is really tasty!)

This recipe for "Mother's Chicken Salad" came from the South African Budget Beaters Recipe Book (which I don't have anymore) and is still as delicious as when I first made it for the family a couple of decades ago!

I no longer have the original quantities as the recipe I copied down simply had what I'd always used - approximate quantities, but here it is:

Diced COOKED chicken breasts - or left over chicken, or 3 chicken drumsticks cooked in chicken stock makes a decent size portion for two. 
1 Apple - peeled, diced
1 Stick of celery - sliced
1/2 small cucumber sliced and then quartered (to match 'diced'!)
2 'average' size potatoes, COOKED and diced or diced first and then boiled.
190ml pecan nuts - optional, this time I didn't have pecan nuts
4T chopped chives - optional, ditto
1 cup mayonnaise - or about 3T
1/2 cup evaporated milk
Salt & Pepper
2 hard boiled eggs to garnish - optional - I forgot the eggs this time!

Combine chicken, apple, celery, cucumber, cooked potatoes, nuts and chives and mix gently.
Mix the evap milk and mayo until smooth and pour this over the chicken.
Mix gently again, season, garnish, serve! I crumbled some Feta cheese over as well.
Serve with something with colour as the chicken, apple and potato are all white and the green of the cucumber and celery isn't strong enough to show! It needs lettuce, rocket, tomatoes for colour.

It is really nice, just filling enough, but light enough to feel good!

Don't forget:  Give yourself TIME to COOK the chicken & potatoes beforehand - and hard boil the eggs!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Flop-Proof-And-Proved Chocolate Cake!

Not a very elegant title I know, and we all have our own "flop-proof" chocolate cake recipe, but since I also didn't have any butter in the house yesterday and needed something to serve guests, this one really did come up trumps! I have no idea where it came from as it's hand-written in my own recipe book!

250ml boiling water;     125ml oil (sunflower, vegetable I don't know whether it'll make a difference!);     125ml cocoa powder;     375ml sugar;     1ml salt (is there a 1ml measure available?! A dash is good enough!);     3 eggs;     15ml baking powder;     5ml vanilla essence;     450ml plain flour.

1.  Mix boiling water, oil and cocoa and bring back to the boil, then leave to cool.
2.  Beat the sugar and eggs with a hand mixer to make it nice and light.
3.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the sugar mixture, fold in and mix well.
4.  Add the essence to the water-oil-cocoa mix then add this to the flour mixture - it doesn't need to be totally cold, it will have had time to cool down while you were beating eggs etc. Mix well.
5. Pour into 'something' - whether it's cup-cake cases, a round tin, two round tins, a square tin - and bake at 180C. The length of time probably depends on how deep it is - cup-cakes or one square or round tin. I did it in a 20cm square tin 8cm deep (8" square 3" deep).  The 'original' recipe says to bake for 25-30minutes. On a previous occasion I'd crossed out the 25, but this time it needed 35minutes! Also depends on your oven of course!
6.  Ice as you like! I cut the square cake into squares then dribbled plain water icing over each individual one.

Many years ago I remember reading that Peppermint Essence goes well with Chocolate Cake, and I have tried it; gives it that 'Oooh' factor!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A Little History!

I'm not a cook! I don't love to cook or bake and I don't follow any of the TV cooking programmes celebrity or otherwise!  I don't recall ever following a recipe as it was written; I've always been short of one ingredient, or just haven't liked the quantities and reduced them drastically! So the finished product is always different to the written recipe and it usually looks quite different too!

So I thought I'd do a blog on what I cook and really see what I come up with. I'm sure if I published them all, they'd make a decent recipe book and even if it was a book that ended up on a charity shop shelf, someone would probably pick it up for a quid or two!

But starting from the beginning - I failed what was then called 'domestic science' in school when I was about 14 years old!  Of course I dropped the subject and took up 'commercial maths' which I think was probably like accounting, which I hated, so I had to go back to the newly named 'Home Economics' and I did pass - just!

As a newly-wed I was working from 8-5 in the city an hour's train journey from home, which meant I had to be at the station before 7am and would only get home after 6pm. So I devised a method to help in the planning of what to cook for my darling new hubby every night: I planned a week's worth of main meals, shopped to a list, and removed the meat from the freezer in the morning before work and it would be ready to cook when I got home!  This plan worked so well I still use it today, over 30 years later, even though I'm not working at the moment!  At times it was fun going through magazines and recipe books finding new recipes and trying them out, or asking the children what they'd like for supper during the week, and with the plan magnetised to the fridge there was no whining What's for supper?!!

This is how the plan looks:

Sunday          Pork & Pasta Stew
                      Blue pg 2

Monday         Cheeseburger Pie

Tuesday         Fish & mash

Wednesday   Chicken with Sweet onions
                      101 pg 98

Thursday        Pancake tuna lasagne
                       Blue pg 13

Friday            Toad in the hole

The references underneath are of course, the recipe books to find them in and maybe I'll do a separate blog on the recipe books I've used!

Not everything goes to plan though! For example on the Sunday I suddenly didn't feel like Pasta so substituted mashed potato!

And on Tuesday I discovered we'd eaten the fish when we had a surprise visitor on Sunday so Tuesday had to be a quick-fix dinner from what we had in the cupboard (I'll have to add that recipe in to another blog, I just need to find a name for it!)

Saturdays have always been a lazy, help-yourself, off-the-cuff light suppers and meals - we don't often get take-aways or go out to eat. Chips for Saturday lunch has been carried forward as a family tradition from when I was a teenager! And Saturday suppers can be toasted cheese, or snackwiches, or if Megan's offering to make, pancakes with cinnamon sugar or butter and sugar or orange or lemon juice or cheese etc. etc!

Another 'tradition' for want of a better word, carried forward from when I was at home and we were on a tight budget, was not to have meat every night, but to alternate with another protein like fish or cheese. So in a typical week we'll have three meat meals, one fish meal and one cheese meal or a vegetarian type meal.

It's worked like a charm for over 30 years and no-one's complained!

Pork & Mango Curry vs Pork & Apricot Curry

 I’m not a curry lover; I like to enjoy my food not sweat over it or in it or have to eat or drink anti-dotes to stop or prevent it murdering my mouth!  But my hubby likes curry so every now and then I treat him to a mild curry!  

Pork & Mango Curry
Ingredients :
750g pork fillet cut into 2.5cm cubes;     25g plain flour to coat cubes;     2T oil;     1 Spanish onion, peeled & thickly sliced;     2 small green or red peppers, cored, seeded & sliced;     1t turmeric;     2t salt;     1T garam masala or curry powder;     1t ground cumin;     1t ground ginger;     1/2 t chilli seasoning;     5 medium tomatoes peeled, seeded & chopped;     2t tomato puree;     450ml light meat stock;     750g small new potatoes, scrubbed or peeled;     1 x 425g can mano slices, drained or 2 large margoes peeled, stoned & sliced.

Method :
1.  Toss the pork in the flour to coat.
2.  Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole.
3.  Add the pork and fry for about 5 minutes until golden.
4.  Add the onion and peppers and cook for a further 3 minutes.
5.  Add the turmeric, salt, garam masala or curry powder, cumin, ginger & chilli seasoning. Cook 1 minute stirring constantly.
6.  Add the tomatoes, tomato puree & stock, blending well.
7.  Add the potatoes, cover and cook for 15 minutes over a gentle heat stirring occasionally.
8.  Add the mango slices and cook for a further 5 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
9.  Serve the pork and mango curry alone or with a selection of accompaniments such as boiled rice, sliced bananas dipped in lemon juice, desiccated coconut, mango chutney, poppadums, chopped cucumber in plain unsweetened yoghurt or a crisp green salad.

This can go in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or for 6-8 hours at room temperature. Reheat gently for about 10-15 minutes.


Pork & Apricot Curry  I don't like mangoes!
Ingredients :
500g Pork loin steaks cut into rough cubes or any piece of pork pieces;     flour, seasoning and a packet of cup-of-soup powder to coat the pork;     Oil (to stop the meat sticking to the pan);     Onion - Spanish, Chinese, British, American, it really doesn't matter, but I only ever use a quarter or less in any one dish!;     Red & Green Pepper (I didn't see the  or originally!) I've never used a whole pepper in any one dish, just a 'slice' - maybe my quantities have something to do with the quantity I cook for - 2!;     1t turmeric (got that right!);     about 1 1/2t garam masala (I didn't know it was interchangeable with curry powder!);     abt 6 Cumin Seeds (that's all I had left!);  1 t ground ginger;     1/2 t curry powder (I didn't have chilli seasoning!);     4 large cherry tomatoes cut in half;     a good squeeze of tomato paste from the tube;     450ml Knorr Lamb stock from cube but any stock would do - vegetable, Oxo, chicken;     about 8-10 small new potatoes (I like potatoes in a stew!) or ordinary potatoes cut into quarters;     3/4 tin Apricot halves (save the rest for dessert with a bit of cream!)

Method :
1.  Shake the pork in the bag of seasoned flour.
2.  Heat the oil in the pot and fry the pork for 10-20 minutes until brown.
3.  Add the onion and peppers and cook a little longer while reading what to do next and lining up the spices!
4.  Add the turmeric, salt, garam masala, cumin, ginger and curry powder and stir.
5.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and stock mixing well.
6.  Add potatoes, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are done, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn't stick to bottom of the pan.
7.  Add the apricot halves and mix in to allow fruit to warm through.
8.  Serve the pork and apricot curry alone or with a selection of accompaniements such as:  boiled rice (curry should always go with rice!), sliced bananas (really adds a special something to a curry!), desiccated coconut (he had I didn't!), mango chutney (where is Mrs Ball's chutney when you need it!),  Poppadoms are a nice authentic addition, chopped cucumber in plain unsweetened yoghurt (if you're serving guests, this would look good), or a crisp green salad.

IF there's anything left over it can be used for lunch on toast the next day, but guaranteed there won't be enough to freeze, unless you're cooking in bulk!

A really good curry; not too spicy, fruity and yummy!

(Original recipe from St Michael Suppers and Snacks by Carol Bowen)

Mediterranean Shepherd's Pie vs Shepherd Pie Mountains!

Mediterranean Shepherd's Pie
2 onions;     2 Carrots;     1 Celery stick;     500g pack mince, such as turkey;     100g smoked bacon, chopped;     2t plain flour;     284ml carton vegetable or other stock;     150ml red wine;     700g potatoes peeled;     knob of butter;     4T red pesto;     25g parmesan, grated.

1.  Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6/fan oven 180C from cold. chop the onions, carrots and celery in a food processor. In a pan over a low heat, cook the mince until the juices start to run, stirring.  Add the vegetables adn bacon and cook for 15 minutes until browned. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for 1 minute, still stirring. Stir in the stock and wine and cook, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2.  Meanwhile,  cut the potatoes into chunks and boil for 10minutes. Drain well, and return to the pan. Stir in the butter. Season.
3.  Stir the pesto into the meat, season and spoon into a shallow ovenproof dish. Spoon the potatoe pieces on top, sprinkle over the cheese and bake for 30 minutes until golden. Serve immediately.


Shepherd Pie Mountains
Ingredients :
1/4 Onion (Unless I'm using pickling onions, there's no way I'd use even a whole onion in one meal!);     1/2 Carrot (depending of course on the size of your carrots!);     1 celery stick;     Mince (it doesn't matter whether it's lamb, steak, beef or turkey, and you are the best judge of how much mince you use in a dish for your family!);     Bacon (I used the last 4 rashers in the pack and as a matter of interest and for this blog, I weighed it and it was just over 100g!);      2t flour - oh! I've just noticed it's two teaspoons, I put 2 tablespoons! Plus I didn't have plain flour so I just used what I had - self-raising flour! (maybe that's what made it taste extra good?!);     1 vegetable stock cube (or you could use an Oxo cube, or chicken cube or lamb cube!);      Potatoes - I have a farmer provider and normally only use half of his gigantic potatoes, but I used a whole one for this!;     Knob of butter - 'one cooks knob is another cook's door'!!!;      Italian Grated Grana Padano, apparantly it's just like Parmesan just made in a different part of Italy! 
I missed out the wine, because I don't usually cook with wine, but I have a vague memory of someone suggesting using orange juice instead! So add to the ingredient list : 150ml orange juice with about a tablespoon of vinegar!

Method :
1. Preheat oven.
2. Put the mince in a saucepan, usually no extra oil should be needed, and cook until it changes colour.
3.  If you're not chopping the vegetables while the mince is doing, peel and chop the potatoes and put in a pot to start boiling. They only need to be par-boiled.
4. It's not necessary to chop the carrot, onion and celery in a food processor (more washing-up to do!), but I did it once and it may just add a little different texture to just chopping with a knife! Anyway, chop it all up, and add to the mince together with the bacon pieces. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
5.  Stir in the flour well before adding the stock, orange juice and vinegar. (I use South African grape vinegar as it is milder to the nose than malt vinegar!) Leave to cook while sorting out the potatoes.
6.  Drain the potatoes, then return to the pan and shake with the knob of butter and add seasoning.
7.  Pour the mince mixture into an ovenproof dish and top with the potatoe pieces (the 'Mountains'!)
8.   Sprinkle as much Parmesan/Grana Padano or whatever grated cheese you like, over the top, a good sprinkling certainly makes a difference to the crispiness of the potatoes!
9.  Bake for 30 minutes and serve with a green vegetable or salad.

(Original recipe from GoodFood magazine, BBC Books, 101 Cheap Eats, Tried-and-Tested recipes)