Friday, 30 December 2011

Toffee Squares

These are great to make with the kids. Essentially a sponge base, it can be flavoured with fruit and spice before being topped with a delicious toffee sauce.

150g softened butter
150g sugar
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
150g self raising flour
120g sultanas, soaked in orange juice
Juice of one orange, satsuma or clementine

1 - Preheat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 - In a large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until soft, pale and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract.
3 - Sift in the flour and combine thoroughly with a metal spoon. Finally, stir in the orange soaked sultanas and orange juice.
4 - Line a square baking tin with grease proof baking paper. Pour in and level the cake mixture. Place on the middle shelf and cook for 30 minutes.
5 - Whilst cooking, prepare the toffee sauce. Put the butter and sugar into a pan. Heat up and melt then pour in the cream. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes or until it has turned light brown. Remove from the heat then allow to cool.
6 - Remove the cake from the oven, remove from the baking tin then allow to cool on a frame. Once cool, cut into squares and spoon on the toffee sauce.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Spiced Clementine Cake

Clementines are beautiful at this time of the year and for me, synonymous with the Festive period.

This is a simple yet impressive cake that is easy to make and just as easy to eat. Your house will be filled with the zesty aroma of this wonderful fruit meaning rumbling tummies for any lucky visitor.

Because there is so much pulp in the cake, it will be incredibly moist and if it lasts that long, will remain so for a good 3-4 days.


3 whole clementines
3 eggs
200g caster sugar
50g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
200g ground almonds
1tsp mixed spice

1 - Put the clementines into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain then blitz in a food processor to a purée. Preheat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 - In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy.
3 - Sieve in the flour, baking powder and spice then fold in along with the purée.
4 - Pour into a greased and lined 8" loose bottomed baking tin and bake on the middle shelf for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
5 - To make an optional icing, put 1tbsp marmalade into a saucepan along with a little water. Heat up and melt. Stir in 6-8 tbsp icing sugar and thoroughly combine then drizzle all over the cooled cake.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Beef and Sweet Potato Curry

The slow cooker has been dusted down and brought back out as a permanent fixture of the kitchen for the winter.

It's that time of the year when slow cooking becomes the norm. Get a few ingredients together in the early hours, off to work then on your return, tea awaits. It almost mocks timely preparation and 'cheffy' techniques. Many memorable meals have been produced from my £7 slow cooker and it has easily been the most cost efficient cookware in my collection.

If you are a curry lover and are looking for inspiration to use your slow cooker that has been sitting in its box since purchase last winter, look no further than the following. Packed with flavour and guaranteed to beat the winter sniffles, it's a must for giving a debut to your new best kitchen friend.

Slow Cooked Beef and Sweet Potato Curry
Feeds 4

1kg braising beef cut into large chunks
2tbsp sunflower oil

For the curry paste:
1 onion
A thumb size of fresh ginger, peeled
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 fresh red chilli, unseeded
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp tomato purée

3 sweet potatoes, or normal white potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
Salt and pepper

1 - In a food processor or pestle and mortar, place in the curry paste ingredients and blend to a paste.
2 - In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add the beef. Quickly cook and turn until coloured then remove with a slotted spoon and add to the slow cooker.
3 - Add a little more oil if necessary, then add the paste and cook, stirring all if the time, for 5 minutes until coloured and fragrant.
4 - Add the tomatoes and a little water and combine. Add to the slow cooker along with the potatoes, cinnamon stick and cloves.
5 - Cook on its lowest setting for 6-7 hours. If you are at home, check after a few hours to see if it has gone dry which it should not.
6 - Taste for seasoning then serve with rice, breads and fresh coriander.

Meatball Marinara

An unnamed high street food provider has a version of this on their menu. Meatball marinara: hot meatballs, tomato sauce and cheese stuffed ...