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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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.

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.

 

Soda Dumplings

Traditionally dumplings are made with suet, but since I didn’t have any I modified a soda bread recipe to make these, which I can make with cupboard ingredients I always have to hand.

Sift about 150g plain flour, 3/4 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt into a bowl; add generous black pepper and herbs of your choice (I use about 1/2 tsp each of sage and rosemary). Thoroughly mix in 2 tbsp oil or melted butter, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly pour in about 150 ml milk, stirring thoroughly, until the dough holds together and comes away from the side of the bowl, but before it gets too wet. Add more sifted flour if it’s very sticky. Break off palm-sized pieces of dough and roll them into balls – depending on the size of the dumplings you can get between 6 and 8 from this recipe. Drop into a covered casserole or soup 15-20 minutes before the end of its cooking time.

Marrow Special: Zucchini Bread

This recipe was given to me by an American friend, hence the name. It’s similar in texture and taste to banana bread. It will make two large loaves, but keeps well and can be frozen.

Sift together 3 cups flour (I used 2 cups spelt and 1 cup wheat), 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder and 3 tsp cinnamon. In a separate bowl beat together 3 eggs, 1 cup oil, 1 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tsp vanilla essence or extract. Grate 2 cups of marrow – if the marrow is particularly large (over 1 kg) gently squeeze out some of the water with your hands. Add the sifted ingredients to the wet ingredients, then stir in the marrow and 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans until well combined. Transfer into two large greased loaf tins and bake at 170°C for 40-60 minutes or until a knife in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

The bread goes particularly well with marrow preserve!

Simple Lentil Dhal

Neither traditional nor authentic, but a filling, easy to cook meal that can be made just with cupboard ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix 1/4 cup red lentils, 1/4 cup green lentils, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tablespoon curry paste, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and a pinch of chilli flakes in an ovenproof dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes until lentils are soft, checking every 15 minutes and adding more liquid if necessary.

Serves 1-2.

Variations:

  • Sliced onion or garlic added to the dhal will improve the flavour. They can be pre-fried but it’s not necessary
  • Add any hard vegetables such as carrot, broccoli, cabbage etc can be sliced and stirred into the dhal. My personal favourite is Brussels sprouts
  • To speed up cooking time, soak the lentils in hot water for a few hours first
  • The dish can be made with any kind of lentil, although red lentils tend to cook more quickly than others
  • The coconut milk can be substituted for any other non-dairy milk, or water (the dhal will be less creamy if just made with water)
  • Can be doubled up and eaten for leftovers. Keeps for a few days in the back of the fridge.

Vegetable Casserole

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Melt 1tbsp butter in a large saucepan. Fry 1 leek, sliced and 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped until soft. Add 1 can kidney beans, rinsed; 4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped; 6 small carrots, peeled and chopped; 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped; fry for a few minutes then stir in 1 can coconut milk, 1/3 cup chopped tomato, 1/3 cup stock, 1 tbsp paprika, 1/2 tbsp basil and 1 tsp cayenne pepper. Transfer to casserole dish, cover, cook for 35 minutes. Mix 1 tsp cornflour with a little hot water to make a paste. Stir into casserole, cook for a further 5 minutes.

Serves 3 generously

Variations:

  • Swap butter for vegetable oil for vegan
  • A large onion can be used instead of leek
  • Cornflour can be left out, just add a little less liquid or cook for a little longer
  • Any root vegetables can be used instead of carrot and potato
  • Sweet potato can be substituted for squash or pumpkin
  • Any softer vegetables should be added 10 minutes into the oven cooking time
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée or tomato ketchup and an extra 1/3 cup of stock can be used instead of chopped tomato