Posts Tagged ‘Nigel Slater’

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A Plum Job

August 17, 2011

This year promises to be a good one for fruit trees. The English apple season has started earlier than ever before thanks to the freezing temperatures of winter which put the trees to sleep meaning that they awoke in the unuaully warm spring with vigour ensuring lots of blossom and good pollonation. I would imagine that this reasoning extends to all fruit teres and a friend’s plum trees were certainly laden and I came away from an afternoon visit with bags of fruit, sweet eating plums that vanished quickly and a sharper, darker variety that begged to be baked.

I always forget just how lovely plums can be, the hard, tasteless fruits found in supermarkets are nothing in comparrison to those picked ripe from a tree. My tiny garden enables me to play with pots of compost and seeds resulting in harvests of salad leaves, slug ravished radishes and of course the essential courgettes. But what I would love, more than anything, would be a fruit tree. A tasty variety of pear or even apple would be a thing of joy, the blossoms, the fruits, the weeks of pies and chutneys, baked goods and compotes.

But a plum tree would be just perfect.

Eager to get started with the bags of fruit I came home with I looked for something quick and easy, this Oat Slice recipe from Delia.

I added some ground cardamom (from about 8 pods) as it pairs well with plums and is one of my favourite spices, I reduced the cinnamon slightly to a level teaspoon rather than the suggested heaped one to make it a bit more balanced. This really took no time at all to bring together, the nutty oats contrasted beautifully with the sharpness of the plums and the earthiness of the spices. You could adapt this to use a wide variety of fruits and I bet the addition of some chopped nuts in the oat layer would be divine.

There were still plenty left and a weekend poker evening meant hungry guests to share with. I didn’t want the stress of pastry and a pie, and a crumble, whilst one of my favorite puddings wasn’t right either. Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume II provided the recipe for a pudding like cake. There was homemade ice cream brought by one of my guests and  I popped some of the remaining plums in a pan with the juice of an orange, a table spoon of sugar, a cinnamon stick and some crushed cardamom pods and reduced them to make a sharp yet deep and spicy compote to cut through the richness of the cake. I upped the spices from the original recipe by once again adding cardamom and also half a teaspoon of ginger and  teaspoon of vanilla. I also used butternilk rather than milk.

Honey, Spice and Plum Cake

(slighty adapted from Nigel Slater’s recipe in Tender Volume II)

250g plain flour

Tsp baking powder

Tsp bicarb

Tsp cinamon

1/2 Tsp ground ginger

Ground cardamom from about 10 pods

Tsp vanilla extract

200g golden syrup

2 tbsp honey (NS specifies ‘thick’ but I used standard runny honey which was all I had to hand)

125g butter

125g light muscavado sugar

250g plums, halved (or quatered if large) with stones removed

2 large eggs

240ml buttermilk (or milk)

Preheat your oven to 180C, grease and line a 24cm square tin

Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarb and spices

Gently heat the golden syrup, honey and butter until the butter is melted then add the sugar

Whisk together the eggs buttermilk and vanilla extract

Stir the syrup mixture into the flour mixture using a metal spoon then the egg and milk mixture, stirring until no traces of flour remain

Pour the mixture into the tin then drop in the plums (vague)

Bake for 25 minutes then cover loosly with foil and bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes. Switch off the oven but leave for a further 15 minutes then remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin.

I can’t help but wonder how Nigel comes up with these recipes – is it based on one tried and tested perhaps handed down or has he (or a minion) experimented with different baking times and options? I’ve not come accross a recipe before that states you should leave a cake in a cooling oven as part of the baking process.

I’m not sure whether a little longer was needed in the oven – you can see the dense moist crumb, and that the plums have sunk to the bottom, but it didn’t taste under done in any way. Not that there was any way to test this theory but I suspect well wrapped it would keep well being so moist. This one disappeared swiftly.

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Sharing the Love

November 9, 2010

I’m under no illusion about the reasons behind my baking, there is absolutely nothing altruistic in my providing treats for those around me. It is a fair and equal exchange between me, the baker, and those that receive the finished goods (bakee?).  If I didn’t live near such lovely people, or work with those whose company I enjoyed, I would bake far, far less. Or weigh far, far more. But I’m lucky. I have good neighbours, friends and colleagues and they enable me to indulge in my hobby and I know that they are lovely people, whose company I enjoy through, my baking.

The rewards extend beyond the pleasure I get from the recipe books I hoard, the planning and baking and even beyond watching others enjoy what I have created; my relationships with neighbours especially, have developed in part because I needed people to offload the products of my kitchen onto, which in turn has led to some good friendships.  At work, the baking provides a framework for connections and small talk, leading what can be odd office dynamics to develop into something more genuine.

Last week a colleague shared with me more apples from her garden, these apples have been a real bonus and  have provided a wonderful autumnal theme to recent baking sessions. I won’t repost the recipes in full, but this weekend I took the latest batch of apples and made a stock of apple sauce as per Deb’s recipe on Smitten Kitchen. Most went into the freezer for future use, but one batch was saved for Sunday’s pre-dawn (I’m looking forward to spring already) baking session and her Spiced Applesauce Cake. I didn’t bother with the frosting and I really don’t think it needs it. It’s so easy to bake and only takes 35 minutes in the oven, there’s a tartness and moistness from the applesauce that I really enjoyed especially against the toasted nuts.

If you read here with any regularity you’ll know my affinity for courgettes and spotting Nigel Slater’s cake that combined the two was the highlight so far of his latest book.

This is a wonderfully easy cake to make, and the moistness from the courgettes and apples are offset by the crunch of the nuts. I used a mixture of walnuts and pecans and you could play around to your heart’s content with the nuts and dried fruit combinations. Having baked so much recently from American recipes the ‘pinch’ of cinnamon seemed overly cautious, and you could add nutmeg or mixed spice quite happily I think. I hint of citrus might not have gone amis either, the zest of an orange would do wonders to lift it slightly – perhaps judge on the tartness of your apples? I would avoid any juice as additional liquid content might cause problems with the water from the courgettes and apple (top tip only discovered after I’d made this, so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness is to put the apples and courgette in a salad spinner to remove the excess water – might have to make this cake again to try it out – let me know if you use this method).

So, whilst autumn makes its presence known with the reversion to GMT and leaf-blocked guttering, step into your kitchen and bake this to share with your family and friends. Or perhaps make new friends and connections by wrapping up to give to neighbours and colleagues.

A Cake of Apples and Courgettes

Nigel Slater; Tender Vol II

200g butter

200g caster sugar

2 large eggs

150g/2 small courgettes

1 small apple

200g plain flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of cinnamon (be generous)

60g pecans, roughly chopped

60g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare a 20cm x 12cm x 9cm loaf tin (I doubled quantities and made several smaller loaves – all the better for sharing and also gave me chance to try out the tin liners from Lakeland)

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy – about 5 mins in a stand mixer

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl

Beat the eggs and add slowly to the butter and sugar mixture

Coarsely grate the apple and courgettes (I used a processor – far quicker and less messy, especially if you have juicy apples) and then squeeze in a clean tea towel to remove excess water

Fold the courgettes and apples into the mixture then slowly add the flour mixture until just combined

Add the nuts and sultanas, scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for oner hour or until it is golden and firm to the touch.

Allow to cool in the tin

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Autumn Apples

October 8, 2010

The Sticky Marmalade Tea Loaf from my previous post used up the jar of marmalade that had been mocking me from the fridge shelf. So I promptly went out and bought another one – because you can’t not have marmalade in the house can you? I am aware of the contradiction but should state that unopened jars in the cupboard do not elicit the same anxieties as open ones housed in the fridge – am I revealing too many neuroses in one post here?

I’m glad I did replenish my stock though, because my new copy of Nigel Slater’s Tender V2 arrived and one of the first recipes I flagged was his Apple and Marmalade Cake. I had been given an enormous bag of apples harvested from a colleagues tree so the ingredient gods were smiling on me that day.

I have made this cake again since, doubling the ingredients and making many small loaves as I wanted to give them away to neighbours – it works just as well.

 

Wholemeal Apple and Marmalade Cake

Nigel Slater

220g butter at room temperature
210g light muscavado sugar
4 eggs
250 g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
200g (peeled & cored weight) apples chopped into pieces less than 1cm
100g sultanas or raisins (I used a mixture of both)
125g Marmalade
Zest of an orange
Demerara sugar for sprinkling on the top
Pre heat oven to 160C and crease and line a 20cm cake tin.
Combine flour, cinnamon and baking powder
In a separate bowl combine the marmalade, raisins and/or sultanas, apples and zest
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the beaten eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary
fold in the flour followed by the fruit and marmalade mixture
scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and sprinkle with Demerara sugar
bake for 1 hr 15 mins (my double recipe made 5 small loaves which I baked for 45-45 mins)

I have also used the apples to make Deb’s Wholewheat Apple Muffins which I first tried last year . I was disappointed last time, but the addition of mixed spice added the depth that I think was missing previously (I reduced the cinnamon to 1/2 a teaspoon and added a teaspoon of mixed spice) I also made sure that the apple pieces were a little smaller, more suited to a muffin. Make sure you fill the muffin cases well, these do not rise that much in the oven so you need to be generous with the batter.

I have found more use for the many apples gifted to me including an apple and date chutney that is currently maturing before I can review it, and an apple and gingerbread cupcake that I will share with you shortly. I have my eye on an apple and courgette cake from Tender (courgettes currently earmarked for my morning porridge though) and of course,  apples and autumn also mean it’s nearly time to make my mincemeat in time for mince pies!