January 28, 2009

Blueberry Sponge Cake

Blueberry cake

MUNCH RATING: 4/5


Steve's mum bought a punnet of blueberries and they were going bad so I cooked this cake to use them up. The blueberries make this sponge lovely and moist and surely this counts as 1 portion of your 5-a-day fruit & veg!

This is so quick and easy to make, especially if you use a food processor to mix.

This is lovely served when it's still slightly warm with a nice cup of tea!

  • Makes: One 8-inch cake
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C
  • Oven shelf: Middle shelf
  • You will need: an 8-inch x 1½ inches deep, non-stick loose bottomed sandwich tin, greased (or silicone pan works well as no need to grease)

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick (110g/4oz) soft butter
  • 1/2 cup (110g/4oz) caster sugar
  • 1¼ cups (150g/50z) self-raising flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1½ cups (225g/8oz) fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/350°F/180°C.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until pale in colour, then gradually mix in the eggs, adding a tablespoon of flour to stop the mixture splitting. Then add the rest of the flour followed by the milk.
    * Alternatively put all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Spread the mixture into the tin.
  3. Gently fold in the blueberries until evenly distributed.
  4. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30-45 minutes, until golden brown all over (Use the shorter time if using fresh fruit and longer time if using frozen).
  5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then turn out and dredge with icing sugar.

January 20, 2009

Winter Vegetable Soup

Winter Veg Soup

MUNCH RATING: 5/5

I used a recipe for Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup from the BBC Good Food magazine as a basic template and I added butternut squash, cumin and chili powder as I really like those flavours. I got lots of compliments for this soup as it has a velvety smooth creamy texture and lots of lovely sweet flavours from the different root vegetables. Steve's Dad even said it was better than New Covent Garden soups! This is only the second soup I've ever made in my life, but it's definitely one I'll be making again.

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • You will need: a large pan with a lid
Ingredients:
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cumin powder
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • ½ medium butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 2 knobs butter
  • 300-400ml stock (I used vegetable Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon)
  • Salt and Pepper
Directions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan on a low-medium heat and fry the onions, garlic, cumin and chilli powder for 8-10 minutes until softened.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash and the butter. Season well with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and let the vegetables sweat down until they start to soften, for about 20 minutes.
  3. Add enough stock to cover all the vegetables and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the vegetables are really tender.
  4. Tip the soup into a blender or use a stick blender to whizz up the soup until it is really smooth, for about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer to warm bowls and serve with lots of nice bread.

January 17, 2009

Sticky Toffee Muffins with Crunchy Nutty Topping

Toffee Muffins 2

MUNCH RATING: 4/5

This recipe is from the MacMillan Cancer Support booklet that came out in 2008 and I have added my own twist by adding a crunchy topping of hazelnuts and demerara sugar. This is a great contrast to the light, fluffy and moist inside of the muffin.

These muffins are healthier than you might think as the 'Sticky Toffee' element comes from using dates and sultanas, which I was a bit dubious about because I don't like eating dates. However, like Sticky Toffee Pudding, you don't notice them but they somehow give a depth of flavour. Steve doesn't like dates or sultanas and he loved these muffins so it's a sneaky way to get people to eat fruit!

This was a perfect post-Xmas recipe because Steve's mum always buys dates and unshelled nuts for Xmas and no one ever eats them, so this is a great way to use them up!

This mixture makes 12 proper sized muffins (with a bit of mixture leftover) so you could use smaller fairy cake cases to make double the amount.

  • Makes: 12 Muffins
  • Oven Temperature: Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C
  • Oven shelf: Middle-top
  • You will need: muffin/cake pan lined with paper cases and a saucepan

Muffin Ingredients:

  • 200g/7oz Soft Brown Sugar (I used half Brown Caster and half Dark Muscovado for that treacle flavour)
  • 175g/60z Raisins or Sultanas
  • 175g/60z Chopped Dates
  • 175g/6oz Butter
  • 200ml/7 fl.oz water
  • 2 medium Eggs, beaten (I only had large eggs so I used 2 that were on the small side)
  • 300g/10.5 oz Plain Flour
  • 2 level Tablespoons Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Mixed Spice (I didn't have any so I used some Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Ground Ginger)
Topping Ingredients:
  • About 30g/1oz nuts, finely chopped (I used hazelnuts which I chopped in my mini-chopper)
  • 1 Tablespoon of demerara sugar
Directions:
  1. Place the sugar, raisins/sultanas, dates and butter in a saucepan with 200ml (7 fl.oz) water. Gently heat to melt the butter, mixing together well.
  2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes (you can speed up the cooling process by stirring the mixture and sitting the pan in a bowl of cold water).
  3. When the mixture is cool enough to touch with your finger, beat in the eggs (if the mixture is too hot you will scramble the eggs!).
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and mixed spice (I sifted these in) and carefully incorporate into the wet ingredients with the minimum of mixing - don't overmix as this makes muffins chewy.
  5. Spoon into the prepared muffin cases. The recipe says to fill them three-quarters full but there was so much mixture that I filled them to the top.
  6. Mix together the nuts and demerara sugar and then sprinkle the topping over the muffins.
  7. Give the tin a sharp tap on the counter to even out the mixture - I find this knocks out any unwanted air bubbles.
  8. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until well risen and springy to the touch.
  9. Allow to cool in tin for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.
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