Archive | July, 2011

Lemony almondy cake

17 Jul

Saffron spiced lemony almondy cake

As I write this, the cake is just out of the oven.  It smells delicious.  I lie.  They smell delicious, for I made a loaf cake and a round sponge.  If only because I didn’t have the perfect baking tin.

I’d been looking for a recipe for a flourless lemony cake for a week or so, and had found various versions of a cake made with eggs, ground almonds, sugar and lemon zest.  In the end I settled on a recipe in one of my absolute favourite magazines and set to adaptation (if only because I had slightly different ingredients in the kitchen).

The original recipe is

Lemony almondy cake

Lemony almondy cake waiting for the saffron syrup

Grease and line a deep round 23cm springform tin.  Or a shallower one and a 1lb loaf tin.

Oven Gas Mark 4.  I had it on 5 by mistake to start with, and the top of the cake on the top shelf is slightly darker brown than I would have liked.

6 eggs, separated

200g caster sugar plus 1 TBsp

200g ground almonds

2 lemons

  1. Add the TBsp of sugar to the bowl with the egg whites and whisk till it forms stiff peaks
  2. In another bowl, whisk the yolks and the remaining sugar together till it is pale pale creamy and quite thick in texture
  3. Stir the lemon zest and ground almonds into the yolky mixture
  4. Add about 1/4 of the egg white to the almondy mixture to loosen it slightly. Mix it in.
  5. Now fold the almondy mixture and the rest of whisked egg whites together.
  6. Pour into the baking tins and bake for about 40mins, or till a skewer comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.
When cool, you can poke holes in it and drizzle with lemony sugar syrup, or with this spiced sugar syrup.
Spiced lemon syrup
Juice of 2 lemons
2 heaped TBsps caster sugar
half a cinnamon stick
some saffron threads
the black sticky seeds from 3-4 cardamom pods
  1. Heat all the ingredients in a small pan
  2. Stir until the sugar dissolves
  3. Boil for around 5-10 minutes, or until good and syrupy

Saffron scented lemony almondy cake

So, there you have it.  A VERY easy, and very moistly delicious lemony almondy cake.  Gluten free.  Not exactly suitable for those on a low carb diet, as it is full of sugar, even before you drizzle it with the syrup.  Ah well, I know someone who will love to eat it at tea-time.
Edited to say this is a fabulous cake – light and delicate.  The syrup definitely enhances it, so don’t skimp on that stage.

Energy bars

13 Jul

Energy bars.  Just the new name for flapjacks really, if slightly uppity flapjacks.

Uppity flapjacks

So, I’m on a low carb diet and I’m busy trying to get rid of all the bad stuff from my cupboard.  Thomas got a box of Kraft Cheesey Pasta today.  And everyone else will get uppity flapjacks tomorrow.

These are based on a recipe ripped out of a weekend paper, I think it was the Scotland on Sunday, and it was Tom Kitchin. I know the recipe was designed for women who had just done the Moonwalk through the night in Edinburgh.  And a wet night it was too.

Anyway, I’ve adapted the recipe, to fit what I had in the cupboard.

Energy bars

100g butter

120g dark brown sugar

2 TBsp honey (I used maple syrup last time)

150g porridge oats

100g of ‘extras’ made up of a mixture of the following:

sunflower seeds

pumpkin seeds

sesame seeds

dried cranberries

dried blueberries


dried banana

chopped pecan nuts (any nut would do)

  • Using a heavy bottomed pan melt the butter with the sugar and honey
  • Add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly together
  • Tip into a lined square baking tin (about 9″ square)
  • Bake for 30 – 40 mins at 150C or Gas Mark 2.

Full of energetic goodness (if you like your carbs)

No more white stuff

12 Jul

I went to see a nutritionist last week.  I’d been feeling lethargic and generally pretty unwell for quite a while, and I’ve been overweight for as long as I can recall, but more weight has gradually piled on top of what was already too heavy.

It was an interesting experience, not least because I was sitting in her house while the most incredible storm was happening outside.

Anyway, as a result I’m on a low carb, high protein diet.  I’m not eating any carbs for breakfast, and limiting them the rest of the day, but trying to cut out those refined white carbs altogether.  In addition to protein I must eat lots of green veg, darker green the better – so lots of spinach and savoy cabbage, both of which I love.  And I can have full fat yoghurt, which I’m loving.

After three days I’d lost 3lbs, which I figure is pretty good going.  And I’ve upped my walking and (probably because I’m eating lots of protein) I’ve pretty much ditched the snacks in the office.

So, this blog will no doubt start having slightly different recipes for a while, until I get my head round this new regime.  So far I’ve been keeping it pretty simple – salmon steaks with lettuce tonight, steak with spinach and savoy cabbage last night.  Chicken salads at lunchtime.  So, not so much a recipe as just putting foods together on a plate.


Strawberry sugar

11 Jul

I’d bought a large punnet of strawberries at my local farm shop this weekend.  When I say punnet, I really mean a basket.

I’d already started on a low carb diet, which means limiting fruit such as strawberries, but I couldn’t resist.

Strawberry jam was the fate for most of the strawberries.  And strawberry puree for the freezer.  But I hankered after making strawberry sugar.  I’m sure I’ve seen strawberry sugar in a book or on a blog recently, but couldn’t find it.

So, I winged it.

I poured a whole load of sugar into a bowl, about 5oz.  Then I squeezed a single strawberry through a sieve onto the sugar.  I mixed it all up with a fork, until the strawberry squishiness was distributed evenly through all the sugar.  I added some extra sugar to absorb all the juice.

The sugar was quite moist (of course) so I left it out in the warm sun to dry.  Luckily we didn’t have the monsoon downpour that Edinburgh had, we were bathing in glorious sunshine.  After an hour or so, I stirred the sugar again – it had all stuck together and needed breaking up a bit.  And again after another hour.

And there it was.  Softly pink strawberry sugar, sweetly smelling and delicately flavoured.

I used it to make a sponge cake for Thomas’s birthday.  And it was tasty tasty.

Valley vodka

5 Jul

So, it’s been ages since I made any flavoured alcohol.  But what would be a nicer reminder of the heady summer days (yes both days) than some elderflower vodka?

I can’t believe I haven’t thought of making this before.  I love infusing alcohols with different flavours and have used blackcurrants, plums, damsons, sloes and cranberries before.  And lemons and oranges, and all manner of spices.

Anyway, back to midsummer flavours.

I don’t usually go back to the valley mid-week but yesterday had arranged to go back (on a Monday night) to finish off the elderflower fizz process (straining and bottling). When I got back it was still gorgeous warm sunshine, and I headed straight down to the garden, to pick some sweet smelling flowers.  There are still plenty in bloom in the valley.

I stuffed the flower-heads into a 1.5l kilner jar, and filled the jar up with vodka.  The jar will be shoogled every day for a week or two.  Then I’ll strain it, and add some sugar syrup, to make a liqueur.

I’ll report back with a taste test.

Sweet chilli dipping sauce

3 Jul

I love chillies.  I love their heat.  And I love thai sweet chilli dipping sauce.

And then I found a recipe to make sweet chilli dipping sauce.  Thanks Thane Prince, from your Jellies, James and Chutneys book.  Lots of lovely things in there, but this is the one I kept coming back to, and thinking I had to make it.

Edited to say the title of the book would of course be Jellies, Jams and Chutneys.  Not James.  

So, last weekend, or was it the one before, I bought my chillies (my ones in the greenhouse aren’t ready yet) and made my first batch.

It’s another great quick recipe, and one that I think I will come back to again and again, although next time I’ll remember to put on a pair of latex gloves before chopping up 60z of hot chillies.

Sweet chilli dipping sauce

2 cups rice vinegar

15oz unrefined caster sugar

6oz red chillies, stemmed and finely chopped with the pith and the seeds

1 TBsp maldon salt

  1. Put the vinegar and the sugar in a large deep saucepan and slowly bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Increase the heat, and boil rapidly for 5-8 minutes until the mixture becomes syrupy.
  3. Add the chiles and salt and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Watch carefully as the mixture can bubble up when the chiles are in there.
  4. Pour into hot sterilised jars, cover with vinegar proof seals and label.
The version I made is extremely hot and is perhaps nicest when added to other things like cream cheese or mayonnaise to make a dip.  Or a stir fry to pep it up a bit.
I keep it in the fridge, but it would probably be fine in a cupboard. It evidently keeps for 6 months.  Not in my kitchen it won’t, maybe 6 weeks.

When life gives you lemons…

3 Jul

… make lemonade.

Take a bag of unwaxed lemons.  Or if you’re lucky enough to have a proper shop nearby, pick 6 gorgeous unwaxed lemons from a box and put them in your wicker basket, or a brown paper bag, and pay for them.

Anyway, peel those lemons.  Use a vegetable peeler, but once you’ve peeled off a strip of peel, go back over it with a sharp knife to remove all the white pith, to prevent that marmaladey taste.

I love lemons. I hate marmalade.

Put the lemon zest in a big bowl.  Add about 4 – 5oz sugar.  Just ordinary white granulated sugar is best, although usually I’m a fan of any other type of sugar.  Then juice all the lemons into the bowl too.

Add about 2.5 pints of boiling water from the kettle – really, it’s not an exact science, so don’t worry about measuring precisely.

Now, give it a quick stir and then leave it be for 24 hours.

Give it a stir, and taste to see if you think it needs more sugar.

Then strain it and bottle it, into sterilised bottles. Keep chilled.  Alternatively you could freeze it in labelled bags, like soup, ready to bring out on a hot summer’s day.  And you do know the best way to freeze soup is to pour it into a bag, then place the bag in a tupperware box of your choice.  Once it is frozen, remove the bag from the box and you can stack your soup easily.

Use diluted with soda water, or ordinary tap water and lots of ice.  Looks great in a jug with slices of lemon, and add sprigs of mint or basil if you like.  Personally I find that lemon and mint flavour a little too much like mouthwash.


Parmesan and courgette herby muffins

2 Jul

I had to see the doctor yesterday morning.  At 10.30am.  But Id had to get up at 8am to phone the doctor, well to press the redial button many many many times before getting through to a receptionist who quite bluntly told me there were ‘no appointments today’.

I was ready for this.  My friend Jane had informed me that the way to see a doctor when faced with this sort of obstacle is to say, calmly, “It’s really important that I see a doctor today.”

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I eventually got an appointment for 10.30am.  Which gave me 2 hours to finish getting ready, bring my washing in from the line, have a quick tidy up and clean the bathroom, and make muffins.  Because of course that’s what everyone does when faced with some unexpected extra time at home.

Isn’t it?

I found the basic recipe here and set to adapting it:

Parmesan and courgette herby muffins

8oz plain flour

1tsp baking powder

1 decent sized courgette, coarsely grated

3-4 oz parmesan, finely grated

200ml milk, and more if necessary

1 egg, beaten

75ml olive oil

a handful of chopped fresh herbs (marjoram, chives and parsley)

Line a muffin pan with muffin cases.  I ended up using 24 fairy cake cases in a regular sized muffin tin, to make nice small muffins.

  1. Mix together flour and baking powder
  2. Add courgette and cheese and mix
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, milk and egg together. Add the herbs
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix quickly together. Don’t over-mix, just bring everything together so it has no lumps of flour. The mixture needs to be quite soft and wet, but not runny
  5. Spoon a large soup spoonful of mixture into each muffin case
  6. Bake for 20 minutes (or until golden) in a medium hot oven (Gas Mark 5)

The muffins were cooled for a wee while on a cooling rack, and then bundled up in a clean tea towel, tied with a piece of string and taken to work to share with my colleagues. The verdict seemed positive!

Summer chicken supper

2 Jul

I love those days when you have an abundance of flavours to play with.  They are usually summer days, with herbs a plenty in the garden.

Today I knew I had a chicken breast for supper. And some savoy cabbage. And we already had potatoes but we had a wee potato surprise mid-afternoon.  One of the pear trees had got blown over in the storms earlier this year, and in its place a potato plant had grown! No doubt the tatties would have grown anyway, but at least this way we could harvest without damaging a precious pear tree.

And my new quince tree had been delivered this week, and it needed to be planted in the old pear tree space.  So today we lifted the rogue potato, and harvested half a dozen gorgeous new potatoes.  And the quince is happy!

So, boiled new potatoes were a definite for supper.  And shredded savoy cabbage, quickly boiled so it retains its fabulous colour and all its cabbagey goodness.

I decided to stuff the chicken breast, with some herby mushroomy numminess.

Mushroom stuffed chicken breast

Half a medium onion, finely chopped

4 mushrooms, chopped

a garlic clove, chopped finely

a large bunch of marjoram, chopped

One large skinless chicken breast

About 4 slices of parma ham, depending on the size of the chicken breast

Add a swirl of olive oil to a small pan, add the onion and heat gently.  Once the onions start to soften add the mushrooms and the garlic and cook gently.  Add the herbs.

While the mushrooms are cooking, ‘open out’ the chicken breast, but pulling across the mini fillet and making the whole breast as wide as it can go.  If it is thick enough, cut gently into the thickest part of the breast to help make it even wider.

Now place the chicken breast on a large piece of clingfilm, fold the clingfilm over it, so the chicken is enclosed.  And start bashing it out further using the heel of your hand.  You’re aiming to get the breast thinner, and fairly uniform in thickness.  And also big enough that you can encase the mushroom mixture in it.

Once you’re done, spoon the mushroom mixture in a ridge towards the edge of  the chicken breast.  And find a way to wrap the chicken round the mushroom – don’t worry if it’s not perfect, as you’re going to seal it by wrapping the whole thing in bits of parma ham.

So, that’s what you’re going to do next.  Wrap the stuffed chicken breast with pieces of parma ham.  It’s lovely if they all come out in nice neat slices and you can lay them overlapping on a board and then roll them round the chicken.  But if they come out in half slices, just do your best, by overlapping one piece then another till the whole chicken breast is encased in parma ham.

Lightly oil a baking tray, and then place the chicken breast on the tray and pop it in a medium hot oven for about 40 minutes or so.  Until it’s done.

Serve in fat slices – a whole chicken breast will be enough for two people – with new potatoes and savoy cabbage. Scrumptious.

No pictures – we ate it too quickly.



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