Saturday, 29 September 2012

Somerset apple cake...

As promised, here's the apple cake recipe! It's been a family favourite for many years - I have no idea where the original recipe came from, but it's written on the inside cover of my mum's Dairy Book of Home Cookery from the late 70s, so it's been around in my family for as long as I can remember!

It's a really easy recipe - you just rub butter and flour together and then chuck in all the other ingredients, and it's so packed full of apples that you end up with chunks of apple lightly bound in spiced cake mix rather than a traditional cake batter! Which can surely only be a good thing. I also love it because it doesn't involve sultanas (why do so many apple recipes insist on including the horrible little things?) but if you don't have a sultana aversion, feel free to chuck a few of those in as well.

Somerset apple cake

4oz butter or margarine (we use Stork for cakes)
8oz self-raising flour
4oz sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon mixed spice
8oz peeled and diced cooking apples (3-4 medium/large apples)
A little milk

Rub the butter and flour together, then add the sugar, spice, egg and apples and stir until well mixed. Add sufficient milk to make a sticky consistency.

Grease and flour a 7–8” cake tin, spoon in the mixture and bake at 180C for about an hour in the centre of the oven or until firm and golden. You can test with a skewer but you might need to give it a few pokes because you'll often find some apple on it rather than uncooked cake!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Autumn jam-making adventures...

As I mentioned, some of the rhubarb from my parents' garden found its way into a crumble, and some was destined for jam. A few months ago my mum was given a jar of homemade rhubarb and ginger jam by a neighbour, and it was so good that she had to find out how to make it. A quick Google came up with this ridiculously easy BBC Good Food recipe - you just chop up the rhubarb and stem ginger and put it in a big bowl with the jam sugar, lemon zest and juice and grated fresh ginger, and then once the rhubarb has released all of its lovely juice and the sugar has dissolved a bit (we left ours overnight) you just boil it all up until it reaches setting point. Easy! And absolutely gorgeous.
Then we used more of our home-grown apples to make our favourite autumnal jam - caramel apple. This is the third year we've made it and it's always good (you can see the 2010 and 2011 batches here and here!) and again it's a really easy one to make. Apples, two types of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and boil boil boil. The original recipe calls for pectin but we never bother with that - we just boil it up until it reaches setting point, as apples have plenty of pectin in them.
Two lovely jam recipes to see us into Autumn...and the weather definitely seems to have turned autumnal as well!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

What I Ate Wednesday...The Return!

I haven't done What I Ate Wednesday for ages, but the theme at the moment (as you can see) is 'Fall into good habits' and after a few less-than-healthy weeks, that's definitely something I want to do!

I've been using MyFitnessPal to log my food intake - I find keeping a diary of what I eat helps me to make better choices (most of the time...although I do slip up fairly regularly!) so I want to really focus on logging everything and not 'cheating'. It's not a 'diet' - although I have a calorie goal that I want to stick to in order to shift the pesky half a stone I've been meaning to shift for about six months now, I'm in charge and I can play around with my food to account for treats and occasional slip-ups.

So here's what I ate yesterday...Wednesdays are running days so my evening meal is always really uninspired (beans on toast or an omelette or whatever's quickest and easiest to make when I get home) so I thought I'd post my Tuesday food instead!

Breakfast was a bowl of Oat So Simple apple and blueberry porridge. We've got some lovely chunky new bowls in the office (I always have breakfast at work) and they're perfect for our descent into porridge and soup season!
Lunch was some lovely vegetarian sushi from M&S, with one of their edamame salads. My sister sent me a photo of the amazing sushi she'd made on Monday evening and it looked so nice I ended up fancying sushi for lunch! I also had an apple, but I didn't take a photo of that. You know what an apple looks like!
Then, with the autumnal weather we've been having, I really wanted something warm and comforting for supper. I made a really easy spinach and chickpea dhal by toasting some spices (cumin, mustard seeds, garam masala, curry powder and chilli flakes) in a pan and adding red lentils, a small tin of chickpeas and a few chunks of frozen chopped spinach. Then I added a bit of veg stock and let it all bubble until the lentils were cooked and the whole thing was nice and thick. It was gorgeous (if not very photogenic!)
And finally I treated myself to a little slice of homemade Somerset apple cake (there's a post about that on its way too, don't you worry...) while watching the Great British Bake Off. I love the Bake Off!
All of that came in within my goal for the day, and it was all delicious! Have a look at the WIAW post on Peas and Crayons to see what everyone else has been eating...

Monday, 24 September 2012

Apple and rhubarb crumble...

We really are coming into apple season now and as there's a nice cooking apple tree in my parents' garden, we made good use of the apples while I was at home! There was also still a pretty big patch of rhubarb left, so we turned some into jam (but that's for another post) and made some into crumble.
I just used a classic crumble recipe - I chopped up the apple and rhubarb (three or four decent stems of rhubarb and a couple of big cooking apples) and layered it in a baking dish with some sugar and a couple of lumps of chopped stem ginger, and then the crumble was 8oz of flour and 4oz of butter, which I rubbed together before adding 4oz of sugar. I also threw in a large handful of oats and a couple of tablespoons of chopped nuts, and then the whole thing went in the oven at 180C for about 45 or so minutes, until the top was golden brown and the fruit was just starting to bubble up at the sides. We had it with custard but it'd be equally nice with some vanilla ice cream. Or with custard and ice cream!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Maple cake...

I've been down in Somerset for the last week, and you know what that means - lots of baking! It's so nice to have people to bake for, and there's a bit of a tradition in my family of making sure there's always cake available when people come to visit.

I'd already decided what to bake first - I'd stumbled upon the Baker's Daughter blog (which sadly doesn't seem to have been updated for a while, but there are some amazing recipes on there) via Pinterest, and as soon as I saw the Maple Cake recipe I knew it was one to try. Having spent four years in New England as a child, I developed a serious love of maple syrup, and it's a love my mum also shares, so I had to make this gorgeous cake for her.

The original recipe calls for one 9" tin, but we decided to bake it in two 8" sandwich tins and use the lovely maple icing to fill and top the cake. It worked really well and the sponge is beautifully light and delicate. It doesn't keep quite as well as an ordinary Victoria sponge, but the buttercream keeps the cake moist and it's so delicious it won't last long anyway - we devoured most of it in one sitting (although there were five of us...!)

I think it would make the perfect cake for an autumn birthday, too...hmm, wonder who's got a birthday coming up in the next few weeks...!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

London 2012 Paralympics!

Having completely failed to get any Olympic tickets, I thought I was going to be disappointed with Paralympic tickets as well, as everyone got swept up in the amazing London 2012 fever and snapped up more tickets than have ever been sold for a Paralympics. I'll admit, to begin with I wanted a ticket as an opportunity to visit the Olympic Park and see the stadium, but as the Paralympics began I became more and more excited about the idea of seeing the events themselves, especially the athletics.

And eventually, thanks to some amazing people at my fabulous running club, I got to go to the stadium not once but twice! I took far too many photos to put into one post, so I've made this collage thing which I hope will give a bit of an idea of the brilliant time I had!
First, last Sunday, we wandered around the park for a bit (it's lovely, with wildflower meadows and incredible buildings and fantastic Games Maker volunteers) and then we saw an incredible night of athletics, including seeing the Duchess of Cambridge present British Paralympian Aled Davies with his discus gold medal and then watching the T44 200m final where Oscar Pistorius was beaten by Alan Oliveira. The atmosphere inside the stadium was totally electric all night, but after Pistorius's defeat there was just a stunned silence. Thankfully along came David Weir to win a stunning gold for Paralympics GB in the T54 5000m! I'd never heard noise like it in a stadium!

And if that wasn't enough, I then nabbed a spare ticket for Thursday's session. Hannah Cockroft won gold, Dan Greaves bagged a silver in the F44 discus, we saw a couple of other GB bronze medals...and then it was time for the big one. The T44 100m final. Pistorius, Oliveira, GB's Jonnie Peacock and a whole host of top athletes. And Jonnie Peacock pulled off an incredible run to take the gold! I thought the noise on Sunday was deafening but it was nothing compared to that moment...and then everyone went completely ape just moments later as David Weir won the 800m! If there had been a roof on the Olympic Stadium, it would have come off. We were also lucky enough to see Peacock and Weir collecting their gold medals!

I feel so fortunate to have been able to see two incredible nights of athletics, and I'm so glad I got to see the Olympic Park and the stadium in use. I can't believe the whole thing will be over tomorrow night - what are we going to do with ourselves? People were cynical before the Olympics but I'm so happy that everyone seems to have got right behind it - and behind our Olympic and Paralympic athletes. I hope London can carry on the Olympic feeling far into the future!
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