Elderflower and Raspberry Cake

I’ve been wanting to try baking with fresh elderflowers since they started blooming, and I finally got around to testing this cake for my birthday – it went down well with my housemates and research group! The cornflour apparently gives the cake a silkier texture – I’m not sure if it makes a difference, but I’ve kept it in the recipe anyway since it certainly doesn’t hurt.

To prepare the elderflowers, just rinse gently to remove any insects then use scissors to cut into bunches of 3-4 flowers, discarding as much of the stem as possible. 3-4 large heads of elderflowers will make about a cup – pick extra for decorating.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tbsp cornflour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1 1/2 tsp baking powder. Stir in 1 cup fresh elderflowers. In another bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup oil, 1 scant cup sugar and 2 eggs. Combine the wet and dry ingredients then stir in 1 cup frozen raspberries. Tip into a greased 1.5 litre loaf tin or a large cake pan and bake at 180°C for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes clean. Allow to cool then cut the cake half horizontally, spread with raspberry jam and replace the halves. Dust with icing sugar and decorate with elderflowers.

Serves 6-8, depending on the size of the slices.

 

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Spiced carrot pickle

I adapted this from a Co-op leaflet based on the ingredients I happened to have in the cupboard. It keeps for up to a week in the fridge, and should be freezable. The particular mixture of spices you use is pretty arbitary – I’d always keep the garlic, ginger and chilli, but garam masala or mixed spice could easily substitute the rest. You could also add coriander seed or cardamom if you have it.

Melt about 1 tbsp butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, then add 1 1/12 cups grated carrot (about 4-5 medium size carrots) and fry for 5 minutes until beginning to turn golden. Stir in a large thumb-sized block of grated ginger (or 1 tsp powdered ginger), 3 cloves garlic, finely diced, and 1/2 red chilli, finely diced (or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes), and cook for a further 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp ground cumin or (1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds), 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1 star anise, broken into pieces, and 1/3 cup raisins (or sultanas). Finally add 2 tbsp honey and 3-4 tbsp malt or cider vinegar and cook down for a further 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the carrots are completely soft. Wait a day for the flavours to develop before serving.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Adapted from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book, because I’m actually incapable of following a recipe without changing something. This version is slightly less sweet and more dry, with a few changes to the baking procedure to reduce the burning around the crust of the cake. Once again, the measurements are in cups since I still don’t own any scales.

Microwave 3/4 cup of baking margerine on low for about 30 seconds (or place in a bowl of hot water) until softened. Add 3/4 cup sugar and whisk vigorously until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes using an electric whisk). Beat in 3 eggs, the zest of 1 large lemon and half of its juice. Fold in 1 cup flour and 1/2 tbsp baking powder, and spoon into a greased 1 litre loaf tin or a large cake tin. Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes then turn down to 160°C for a further 15-25 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool upside down for 15 minutes then turn upright again pierce the cake liberally with a skewer or fork. Stir the rest of the lemon juice, the zest of half a lemon if you have it and 2-3 teaspoons of sugar into a slurry (there’s no need for the sugar to dissolve). Drizzle the mixture over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

Green been casserole

I threw this together out of bits and pieces from the back of my fridge and it turned out really well. There’s no need to throw away the chicken bone and skin – add them to the casserole to improve the flavour and pick the cooked meat off the bone when it’s done.

Remove the meat from a chicken thigh and cut it into roughly 1 cm cubes. In a large casserole dish, mix together the chicken, 1 1/2 cups green beans, cut into 1 cm slices, 1 medium carrot, cut into 1 cm cubes, 1 medium onion, thinly sliced, 2 cloves garlic, finely diced, 2/3 cup cottage cheese, 1/3 cup hot salsa and a generous crack of black pepper. Pour over enough stock to just cover everything. Bake at 180°C  for an hour and a half, or until everything is well cooked. If the casserole is looking a bit runny after an hour, remove a few spoonfuls of liquid and return to the oven.

Serves 2 or 3 with garlic bread.

Carrot cake

Another cake recipe adapted from A Taste of Oregon. It’s a great cookbook, especially since all the baking measurements are in cups and I don’t have a set of scales. You can also add walnuts or pecans, although I don’t usually have them in my cupboard.

Mix together 2/3 cup brown sugar and 2 eggs; add 1/2 cup oil and stir thoroughly. Sift in 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp garam masala, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp salt, and combine. Stir in 1 1/2 cups grated carrot and 1/3 cup raisins; if the mixture is too dry (you’re struggling to stir in all the flour) add a little milk, 1 tbsp at a time, until the mixture is fully combined but still thick. Pour into a 9-inch cake tin or separate into muffin cases, filling the cases 2/3 of the way up. For the cake, bake at 180°C for 45 minutes to 1 hour. For the muffins, bake at 220°C for 5 minutes to create round muffin tops then turn down to 180°C for 10-15 minutes for the muffins.

Hash browns with salsa and avocado

When I cooked this, the hash browns got stuck to the pan after I’d flipped them over, so sprinkling over a little extra oil when flipping should help prevent them getting stuck.

Peel and grate 2 medium potatoes and rinse under the tap to remove excess starch. Pat or squeeze out the worst of the moisture; stir in 1 clove garlic, finely diced, 1/2 small onion, finely diced, 1 tbsp flour, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp salt, and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan then turn the heat to low and add the potato mixture, spreading it out evenly across the pan. While the mixture is cooking, roughly mash 1 avocado then stir in 1 small clove garlic, finely diced, 2 tbsp hot salsa, and a small fistful of goat’s cheese, cut into small cubes. Once the hash brown is brown on the underside and crisping up around the edges, break it into quarters with a spatula and flip (if it’s falling apart, leave it for a few more minutes). Continue to fry on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until golden brown on both sides, then transfer to a plate and top with the avocado mixture.

Serves 1 generously.

Tomato Sauce

I use this recipe for anything from lasagne to pizza. If you don’t have a blender (or don’t feel like washing up), simply chop the onion up more finely, add a little less water, and use your spoon to mash up any large chunks of tomato from the can.

Finely chop 1 small red onion and 2-3 cloves garlic. Heat a generous spoonful of oil in a saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until they are golden brown. Add 1 400g can chopped tomatoes then refill the can with water and add that in too. Stir in a heaped teaspoon of vegetable stock and a generous sprinkle of herbs of your choice (I use oregano and thyme). Bring to the boil then reduce to a medium heat and bubble for 15-20 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (white is fine) and 1 teaspoon soy or Worchester sauce. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little, then blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. If your sauce is too thin, stir in a spoonful of plain flour and cook for an extra 3-4 minutes.

To use as a pizza sauce, omit the can of water.

Freezes well, or lasts for a few days in the fridge.

Apple and Cashew Soup

A fairly simple soup recipe, but not a combination I would have thought of if I hadn’t spotted it in a recipe book. The Thai curry paste really brings out the flavours, but you can use 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or a pinch of chilli flakes instead if you don’t have any.

Roughly chop 1 small onion and finely chop 2 cloves garlic. Peel 1 medium carrot, 1 medium potato and 1 large apple, and cut them into small chunks, cutting the carrot a little smaller than the potato as it is slower to cook. Heat a spoonful of oil in a saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until translucent and beginning to caramelise. Add the carrot and potato and allow them to brown a little, then add to the pan 2 cups boiling water, 1 generous teaspoon vegetable stock powder, 1 scant teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon Thai red curry paste (to taste) and a large handful of cashews. Bring back to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook until the carrot and potato are begining to soften, then add the apple. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes, or until the carrots are fully soft. Allow to cool a little then blend thoroughly and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 2 with bread, reheats well the next day.

Blueberry muffin cakes

This recipe was adapted from a recipe in A Taste of Oregon. It went down well with my new housemates! To stop the mixture from curdling, make sure that all your ingredients are at room temperature before you start cooking.

Beat together 1/4 cup margerine and 1/3 cup sugar until well combined and fluffy-looking. Beat in 1 egg until well combined. Sift together 1 1/4 cup flour, 1 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cinnamon, then add to the wet mixture and combine. Slowly mix in 1/3 cup milk then fold in 1 200g pack of blueberries. If using paper cupcake cases, grease them with a little margerine (silicone cases won’t need greasing) and fill almost to the top with the mixture. Bake at 220°C for 5 minutes to create a rounded muffin-top, then turn the oven down to 180°C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes, or until a knife comes out of the centre of a muffin clean. The muffins will keep for several days in an airtight container.

 

Sautéed potatoes with celeriac and kale

This is based on a Nigel Slater recipe, with some of the fancier ingredients taken out and whatever I had leftover from my veg bag thrown in. Serves 1 as a main or 2 as a side and is best eaten straight from the pan.

Slice 1 medium onion into strips. Very finely slice (as thin as you possibly can) 1-2 cloves garlic, 2-3 small potatoes and a fist-sized chunk of celeriac. Heat a generous spoonful of oil in a non-stick frying pan over a high heat; when a haze begins to form over the oil, drop in the onion. Fry for ~5 minutes, then add the potato, celeriac and garlic. Continue to fry, turning regularly, for another 10 minutes or so, allowing the onion to caramelise and the potato and celeriac to brown on both sides. Add a large handful of roughly chopped kale (I used curly kale, about 3-4 leaves), 1 tbsp soy sauce or 1tsp miso paste mixed with a little hot water, a heaped tbsp of peanut butter, and a sprinkle of powdered ginger (or you can use fresh grated ginger). Mix thoroughly, continuing to cook until the kale has cooked down, the other vegetables are well browned and the potato is easily cut with a knife. Serve immediately.

Variations:

  • The celeriac can be replaced by any other root vegetable and the kale with any other leafy green, although spinach or chard will probably take less time to cook down.