Apple and Ginger Surprise Loaf

What’s the surprise? (I hear you ask)
The surprise is that I made it.
I was actually just in the kitchen making a coffee and bemoaning the lack of biscuits to go with said coffee and my eyes began to wander and before I knew what was happening I had a bowl full of cake mix in front of me.

I was going to knock up a batch of biscuits as cheeky treat, but then I noticed a banana that had seen better days loitering in the fruit bowl trying it’s best to corrupt a lonesome apple and my head decided that the best place for them was inside a cake, rather than have them join forces and ruin what was left of the innocent ginger root. Ah now ginger, that would be nice with apple….

So the mixing began in earnest and i remembered the tin of chrystallised ginger in the cupboard that I’ve been forgetting about for the last 2 months, and when I was rummaging I found a jar if ginger syrup ( left over from the chrystallising ). Then I thought this might actually turn out to be rather awesome and I really should be taking pictures for the blog, but as my camera was in the somewhere, and my iPad was charging in the somewhere else I just decided to crack on before the baking muse decided to join them. It also occurred to me that I should probably be writing this down. And measuring the ingredients rather than just chucking and sloshing.

The following is a recipe of all the things I remember putting in it, in their approximated quantities. And even if I do say so myself it’s rather delicious.

Apple & Ginger loaf.

*75g Butter (softened)
*50g Sugar
1 Egg
*275g Flour
*2 level tsp Baking powder
1 overripe Banana
**75ml Ginger Syrup
**75ml Creme Fraiche
1 Apple (peeled and diced)
**100g Chrystallised Ginger ( finely chopped )

*these ingredients I did measure
**these ingredients I didn’t, but its a good ‘guesstimate’

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until pale and smooth.
Beat the egg and stir in gradually, adding a spoonful of flour each time you add some egg to avoid curdling. When all the egg has been stirred in , sift in the rest of the flour and baking powder and stir well.

In a smaller bowl mash the banana and mix with the ginger syrup and creme fraiche, then add this to your large bowl and stir well. The mixture should be slightly ‘gloopy’ in consistency, but not quite pourable. If it is too dry at this point add a little more creme fraiche. Now throw in the chopped apple and chrystallised ginger and mix thoroughly.

Transfer the mixture to a 2lb greased and lined loaf tin, cover the top loosely with greaseproof paper and place in an oven preheated to 170degrees. Bake for 1 hr and 15 minutes then uncover and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes. Poke a skewer or knife into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean then it’s done. If not return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes ( you may need to recover the top to stop it getting singed).

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Take out of the oven and leave in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove it, take off the lining paper and leave on a cooling rack for as long as you can. The longer you leave it too cool, the easier it is to slice, but if you are impatient like I am, warm chunks are more than acceptable.

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A Bientôt.

Avocado and Pistachio nut Loaf

I do like a nice loaf. And (if I do say so myself) this is a rather nice loaf.

I made a version of this a little while ago, but it was lacking  …. something. I had no idea what that something was, so I left it and moved on to sweeter things for a while. When I was shelling some pistachios for a recent recipe it suddenly occurred to me that these could be the very thing my old loaf needed.

The problem with pistachios is that they take so long to shell,  I just couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm for a while. You may notice that in the recipe below I’ve been rather vague about the amount of pistachios used as I got a little bored at around the 30g mark and decided that was enough, but in all honesty a few more wouldn’t have gone a miss.

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Avocado and  pistachio nut loaf

200g Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
1/2tsp Salt
100g Sugar
100g Butter
1 medium Egg
1 ripe Avocado
100ml Creme Fraiche
Zest of 1 Lemon
3cm piece of Root Ginger
30-50g shelled Pistachio nuts

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Cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
Fold in the flour, baking power and salt and stir well.

In another bowl mash the avocado until smooth, add the zest of one lemon and grate in the piece of ginger. Stir in the creme fraiche and beaten egg.

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well until fully combined.

Shell pistachios and place in a plastic bag and roll hard several times with a rolling pin and crush into small pieces.

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Tip the bag of crushed nuts into the batter and combine.

Tip the whole mixture into a greased and lined loaf tip and cover loosely with baking paper. Bake at 180 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the baking paper cover after the first 35 minutes.

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During the last 15 minutes of baking time test the loaf with a wooden skewer, when the skewer comes our clean, then you are ready to take the tin out of the oven and rest it for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes take the loaf out of the tin and allow to cool completely ( if you can ).

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I thought about adding a glaze or crust to this loaf, but in the end I’m really glad I didn’t as it simply doesn’t need any embellishment.

This is a lovely loaf to enjoy the next day when the cake has become more dense (and a lot easier to slice). Either on it’s own or spread with a little butter.
It’s not exactly sweet, but it’s not exactly savoury either, somewhere in-between, but it’s  very good with a feet-up cuppa, and lasts up to a week if stored wrapped in greaseproof paper in an airtight container.

Enjoy 🙂

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A Bientôt

Apples apples and more apples.

As I mentioned in the last post we haven’t had much luck with the garden this year. Last year our old apple tree yielded around 150 to 200 kg of fruit, much more than we could ever use, but this year we had a total of 6. Not 6 kilos, 6 apples, barely enough for a crumble. So when my friend asked me if I could use ‘a few’ from her garden I was understandably keen. Her definition of ‘a few’ equals slightly more than mine.

APPLES!

So 3 crates of apples and no freezer…. I managed to offload ‘a few’ to my neighbours within minutes of arriving home decreasing the crate count to 2, but that’s still quite a lot of apples to be getting on with. So let’s  do just that shall we?

A quick forage in the cupboards and everything was gathered and ready for a spot of  jamming.

Apple pie jam

300g sultanas
100 ml pumpkin jelly*
100 ml water

Gently heat the water and and jelly until the jelly has dissolved then take off the heat and add the sultanas. Soak the sultanas in the liquid while you are peeling the apples to plump them up nicely. *If you don’t happen to have any pumpkin jelly in your fridge then apricot jelly or jam is perfectly sufficient.

Now pull up a chair, put something interesting on the telly, get yourself a cuppa and settle down for the decidedly boring task of peeling, coring and dicing apples…

2 kg of peeled and diced apples
200g finely chopped crystallised ginger**
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 kg sugar.

** if you do not have crystallised ginger then use finely chopped ginger root and add 100g of sugar to the overall amount.

Usually for jam you would use a kilo of sugar for each kilo of fruit, but because of the extra sugar in the crystallised Ginger and the Pumpkin Jelly used to soak the sultanas, I reduced the amount to 1 kg.
Once the apples are ready, add them to the pan with the sultanas, ginger, cinnamon and sugar and heat gently, stirring until the mixture begins to boil. Simmer the mixture for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

just keep stirring
After 30 minutes of simmering the apple pieces should be soft and spongy and full of flavour, and now is the time to turn up the heat. Boil furiously for 10 to 15 minutes until the liquid is sticky and thick. Take off the heat and pot up into sterilised jars. Screw the lids on tightly and allow to cool for several hours. These quantities will make around 5 standard sized pots of jam, or 6 or 7 pots if you have a collection of higgledy piggledy jars like I do.

higgledy piggledy jars
This is a chunky thick jam with a strong flavour and is fantastic dolloped onto warm scones or freshly buttered toast, it also makes a delicious filling for jam tarts.

Well that’s 1/2 a crate of apples gone, now what to do with the rest?

A Bientôt.

Sweet Somethings

Sugar and spice.  But mostly ……..

Sugar

I’m a relative newcomer to flavoured sugar, it’s only since I arrived in France and discovered small (and outrageously expensive) packets of vanilla sugar for sale. Of course I was curious, and then I was hooked. It took me quite a while to realise that with very little effort and expense I could have a ready supply at my fingertips by making it myself. I said I was curious, I never said I was bright.

So……. in my last recipe I used Lavender sugar and I’ve had quite a few queries about what on earth it is, where you can buy it and can you make it yourself?

Well lavender sugar is exactly what it sounds like, lavender flavoured sugar.
As to where to buy it I have absolutely no idea, which brings me rather neatly on to how you can make it. It’s really easy, and totally delicious too.

All you need is sugar, some lavender grains, a glass jar and a week or two. That’s it.

Fill a jar 1/3 with sugar chuck in a couple of spoonfuls of lavender grains, fill the jar to 2/3 with more sugar and add another spoon or 2 of lavender, close the jar and give it a good shake. Then put it in your cupboard giving it a shake every now and again and in just over a week it’s ready to use. You can tell it ready when you take the lid from jar and have a good sniff!

Now I’m quite a fan of the ‘bits’ in the sugar, but if you don’t actually want to have the grains mixed in then tie the lavender into small muslin sachets and pop them in the jar instead. It takes a little longer and a few more shakes to infuse the flavour, but works just as well. When you have used some of the sugar simply top up the jar and shake well. If you are using the sachets you will have to give the bags a little squeeze every now and again to release more of the scent.

Now I have a bit of a confession to make, I do have a small ‘problem’ with flavoured sugar. The problem is that there isn’t enough room in my cupboard for all the different varieties i have made. Once you get a taste for it ( and if you are me) the possibilities are almost endless. To date I have lavender sugar, vanilla sugar ( split a vanilla pod, bury it in a jar of sugar, shake and  leave for a week ), cinnamon sugar ( bury a couple of cinnamon sticks in a jar of sugar…. you know the rest by now ), clove sugar and chilli sugar ( I haven’t used the chilli yet, but I have an idea for it and will let you know if it works! )

part of my collection
The method for any of the citrus sugar is slightly different; zest your fruit and allow the zest to dry out before adding it to your sugar jars and this will avoid any ‘clumping’ of the sugar crystals.
For ginger sugar you can add a few pieces of crystallized ginger ( handy recipe just here ) or a couple of spoonfuls of dried ginger root powder.

If you don’t want any ‘bits’ in your sugar then simply pop the whole lot into a food processor and give it a whizz for a couple of minutes. Job done.
I’m still working on a satisfactory method for mint – I’ll let you know…

Now you might wonder what on earth you can use all these sugars for, but the possibilities are endless from simply stirring into tea or coffee to sprinkling on French toast or flavouring pastry or just about anything you can imagine.

I’m quite sure my curiosity will lead me on to many more experimental sugars, ( I’ve just discovered how to make coloured/flavoured sugar cubes, but I’ll keep that one for another time ), but if you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know in the comments box.
Its just as well my coffee consumption is sufficient to keep up the supply of large jars that I’m going to need:)

A Bientôt.

Everything pickle

It all started with an aubergine. You see I absolutely hate throwing anything away, and the leftover aubergine was about a day away from the compost heap and was calling out to me every time I walked in the kitchen. What with that and the plaintive calls of the half parsnip, going to the kitchen was becoming quite a noisy affair. I knew that I would be out with friends for the whole of the next day so there was going to be little opportunity muck about in the kitchen so the moment was seized and I decided to cook.

What I was going to cook was still slightly up in the air so it was time to see what else needed using up. As it turns out there was rather a lot, and when presented together there was really only one answer.

Cheeky Chunky Chili Chutney

1 Aubergine
3 Carrots
2 Onions
1 Fennel
1/2 a large Parsnip
2 Tomatoes
6 Baby corn
2 tsp of chopped fresh Chillies
1 heaped tsp of wholegrain Mustard
300 ml of brown Vinegar
200 ml of white Vinegar
50 ml of cider Vinegar
100 ml of Red Wine
50 ml of ginger syrup
300 g of brown Sugar
Cold Water.

Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients, and in particular the vinegar varieties. As I said I was using up odds and ends of stuff so as long as the volume of vinegar remains the same as the total in the recipe it really doesn’t matter what type you use. And if you need the recipe for ginger syrup you will find it on the chrystallised ginger post 🙂

Anyway….

Roughly chop all the veg, not too small this is a chunky chutney, and place in a large heavy bottomed pan.

Add the chillies and mustard, then pour in all the vinegars, red wine and ginger syrup.

If the liquid doesn’t cover all the ingredients, top up with cold water and stir well.

Turn on the heat and bring to the boil stirring all the time.

Once the chutney is just boiling add the brown sugar and stir till completely dissolved.

Turn down the heat to a good simmer and walk away, put you feet up, watch a bit of Telly.

The chutney needs to sit and simmer for about 2 hours with the occasional stir to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

After a couple of hours the liquid should be a rich glossy dark brown, thick and sticky. Now is the perfect time to pot. Fill washed and sterilised jars to the top and screw the lid on tight.

 

Now you can eat this the following day ( which is just as well as a jar of it ended up at my friends barbecue the following evening ), and it has a really nice taste and a cheeky little bit of spice to it, but I’ve got a feeling that by around Christmas time, it will be sensational. I am trying to ignore the two pots left in my cupboard. It’s really not that easy you know.

A Bientôt

There will be pictures added to this post as soon as a small technical issue* has been rectified.

*The technical issue being that I’ve put them somewhere and I can’t seem to find them….

A ginger revelation

I’ve never been a fan of Crystallised Ginger, in fact I’d go as far as to say I really don’t like it. So when we were having a coffee at the local bar a couple of weeks ago and the landlord very proudly began offering his patrons a taste of his home made ginger I was reluctant to say the least.  He became rather insistent and politeness forced me to take the smallest chunk I could find from the bottom of the bowl and I bit down with coffee mug ready in hand to wash away the unpleasantness immediately.

To use the comparison of St. Paul on the road to Damascus is perhaps a little strong ( and more than likely blasphemous in some way), but I did have a moment of complete revelation. It was absolutely gorgeous. Before the first tiny morsel had been swallowed the request for more had gone out and whilst the chunks were a little large for my taste I was determined that this was something I was going to try to make for myself.

The very next day I went shopping for ginger.

For this recipe you will need 1 kg of peeled ginger root, 1 kg of sugar and  some water. That’s it.

It is always best to use fresh ginger root as it can become tough and ‘woody’ in texture quite quickly, so it is advisable to buy and cook your ginger on the same day if possible.

Peeling ginger is not a task I look forward to and the kilo of ginger sitting before me was looking rather ominous, but I decided to try out an odd tip I found on-line and to my delight it was a roaring success. Instead of using a knife, drag the edge of a spoon across the skin and it lifts away so easily and cleanly that you lose almost none of the flesh and you can get into all the knobbly bits with ease.Peeling ginger with a spoon

The next step is cutting your ginger root. As I mentioned the sample I had that got me so excited was a little on the chunky side so I decided to try very thin slices.

Use a knife to slice the ginger thinly

You can of course use a mandolin slicer for this as it is undoubtedly faster than a knife, but I cant*.  Slice the ginger as thinly as you can, place in a heavy bottomed pan and add just enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the water and re-cover with fresh water and bring to the boil again. ( Ginger root can be slightly bitter and the first boil gets rid of the ‘tang’).

Once your pot is boiling add your sugar (800 g)  and stir till it has all dissolved.

Boil gently for around 25-30 minutes until the liquid has turned a caramel colour and small sugar crystals begin to form around the edges of the pan

Boill until the liquid is caramel coloured

Drain into a colander and leave it to drip into a bowl for a further 30 minutes.

Whatever else you do at this stage DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES discard the liquid. When the cooked Ginger has drained decant the syrup into a jar and store for later use. ( There are SO many things you can use the syrup for it would be a crime to throw it away. I will write a separate post detailing all the things I’ve used it for so far, at a later date) .

Once the ginger is slightly less soggy spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle the remaining 200g of sugar over the pieces and roll it around to make sure there is a fairly even coating.

once drained roll in sugar to coat the pieces

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees, place your baking tray in the oven and then turn it off and leave to cool completely ( overnight if possible ).  You can just leave the ginger to dry out naturally but using the oven cooling method makes the sugar coating a little more crunchy. (Any excess sugar left on the tray can be used as a delicious addition to natural yoghurt of as a topping for cakes or gingerbread).

Once the ginger has cooled and dried completely it can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 3 months. You can use it in so many different ways;  chopped and thrown into cookie dough or cake mixtures, dipped in chocolate, spice up natural yoghurt with a few pieces, or of course you can  just eat it.

store in air tight container for up to 3 months

My first batch lasted less than 3 days……
A Bientot.

*The reason I cant use one is a story involving a mandolin slicer, my best friends finger tips and a late night visit to accident and emergency.  You know who you are.