A simnel cake is a fruit cake with a middle layer of marzipan and another layer on the top. Since Victorian times, the cake has been decorated with 11 or 12 little balls of marzipan. It was traditionally eaten on the middle Sunday of Lent – the 12 balls representing Christ and his 11 apostles (minus the 12th, Judas).
I have a confession to make, I’d never actually eaten a simnel cake until I made these. What have I been waiting for? They’re easy to make from scratch and are delicious! The idea of cooking them in used food tins is ingenious. A word of caution, however, try not to use ring-pull tins. They have a lip at the top that makes it difficult to ease the cake out after baking. I had to open the other end of the tin to get them out!
Even though I used small tins (150g Morrison’s own brand sweetcorn… around the size of small Heinz baked beans ones), we shared half a cake each.
- 150g/5oz ground almonds
- 200g/7oz icing sugar + extra for rolling
- 2tsp almond extract
- 1 egg white
- 115g/4oz butter, softened
- 115g/4oz caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 125g/4½oz self-raising flour
- 300g/10½oz mixed dried fruit ( any of currants, raisins, sultanas, mixed peel, glacé cherries)
- 1tsp mixed spice (I didn't have any, so I made my own mixture)
- 4tbsp apricot jam (I used some home-made plum jam)
- cocoa powder, for dusting
- Put the ground almonds, icing sugar, almond extract and egg white into a food processor and combine until a thick ball of dough is formed
- Turn the paste out onto a work surface and knead it a few times. Roll it into a log and wrap in cling film until the cake mixture has been made
- Any unused marzipan will keep for a month in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer
- Pre-heat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2. Line the base and sides of each tin with baking parchment
- Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy
- Add one of the eggs and combine until well mixed. Add the other egg with 1 tbsp of flour and mix again
- Stir in the rest of the four and all of the dried fruit
- Liberally sprinkle some icing sugar on a work surface and roll out the marzipan. Cut out 8 circles about ½cm thick and the same diameter as the tins
- Divide half the cake mixture between the tins and level the tops. Put a marzipan rounds on top of each and cover with the rest of the cake mixture
- Bake for an hour or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes away clean
- Allow the cakes to cool in their for 15 minutes before remove them to cool completely on a wire rack
- Trim the top of each cake with a sharp knife to make them flat
- Heat the jam and brush on the top of each cakes before cover each with the remaining marzipan rounds
- Make 36 mini balls with the remaining marzipan. Put 9 balls around the edge of each cake, using a little brush of jam to stick them in place
- Lightly sprinkle with cocoa powder
About a month ago we were watching an episode of Food Unwrapped where they investigated the benefit of prunes in keeping you… ahem, ‘regular’.
The presenters did a little compare & contrast experiment where, each day, one of them drank a glass of prune juice, another ate a couple of plums and the third ate a few prunes. The last proved to be by far the most effective way of upping your fibre intake.
The programme took a trip to Agen in France which apparently produces the best prunes in the world. That was it, I was straight online to order myself a bag of Agen prunes.
They didn’t lie, Agen prunes put all other prunes in the shade when it comes to taste and size. I’ve begun eating 3 prunes each morning and I can attest that the workings of my alimentary canal are markedly smoother than previously!
I searched through all my cookery books looking for a tempting recipe to try so as to mix my prune intake up a little. Eventually, I came across a prune and almond tart with Armagnac in Rick Stein’s French Odyssey. I don’t think I’ve not previously posted any of his recipes despite the fact that we love a lot of the food he makes.
We’re not big brandy drinkers and I couldn’t find anywhere that sold miniatures, but decided to invest in a bottle of Armagnac for this and future recipes – it’s often called for in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Stein’s instruction is to soak the prunes for an hour prior to using them. However, I think a more extensive soak (overnight / 8 hours or so) would improve matters.
Not that the tart wasn’t incredibly good anyway – believe me, it was! Pairing it with a dollop of crème fraîche really works too.
- 225g/8oz plain flour, sifted
- ½tsp salt
- 130g/4½oz butter, chilled & diced
- 1½-2tbs cold water
- 300g/10½oz mi-cuit (semi-dried) Agen prunes, stoned
- 4tbs Armagnac
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 35g/1¼oz ground almonds
- 55g/2oz caster sugar
- 200ml/7fl oz crème fraîche
- icing sugar (for dusting)
- additional crème fraîche (for serving)
- Put the prunes into a bowl with the Armagnac and leave to soak for at least an hour, turning them occasionally to help them absorb the alcohol
- Put the flour and salt in a food processor or mixing bowl. Add the butter and work together to the fine breadcrumb stage
- Stir in the water with a round-bladed knife until it comes together into a ball
- Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed briefly until smooth
- Rest the pastry in a fridge for about 30 minutes before using
- Roll out the pastry and use it to line a greased, loose-bottomed flan tin (2½ cm deep, 24cm diameter)
- Prick the base all over and chill for 20 minutes
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/400ºF/Gas mark 6
- Blind bake the pastry case for 15 minutes then remove the blind baking gubbins and bake the case for a further 5 minutes
- Set the case aside and reduce the oven temperature to 190°C/ºF/Gas mark 5
- Drain the prunes over a bowl to reserve the remaining Armagnac
- Add the ground almonds, egg, sugar and crème fraîche to the Armagnac then beat together until smooth
- Distribute the prunes over the base of the pastry case and pour over the almond mixture
- Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes away clean
- Allow the tart to cool before dusting with a little icing sugar
- Serve with additional crème fraîche
Are cupcakes still all the rage? I never really got that into them, perhaps because I’m terrible at decorating them. The icing has to be perfect for me to really enjoy them. Crunchy icing puts my teeth on edge. It needs to be a sweet, flavoursome butter cream or cream cheese.
These jam-filled pound cupcakes don’t need any topping because the interest is all in the middle. I used some of my home-made mixed berry jelly from last autumn – there are always a few jars in the store cupboard. You can use any fruit jam, marmalade or lemon curd instead. Or what about a spoonful of Nutella? Mmmmmmmm…
I used a pound cake recipe I found in Marvellous Mini-Cakes – a little book full of teensy sweet & savoury cakes. I used to think a pound cake was a cake that weighed a pound! In actual fact, it’s a cake traditionally made with a pound each of its four main ingredients – butter, sugar, flour and eggs… so I guess it’s really a 4lb cake!
As tempting as they may be, please don’t attempt to eat these straight from the oven. The hot, molten jam will scald the roof of your mouth!
- 120g/4¼oz salted butter
- 120g/4¼oz caster sugar
- 2 eggs, separated
- 120g/4¼oz plain flour, sifted
- 2 scant tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Grease a muffin tin and dust with flour or add cupcake/muffin cases
- In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture turns pale and becomes smooth
- Add the egg yolks, flour and salt and combine
- In another bowl, whisk the egg whites
- Add them gradually to the mixture
- Add the baking powder
- As soon as you have stirred in the baking powder, put a dessert-spoonful of cake mixture in each cupcake hole/case
- Add a teaspoonful of jam to the centre of each cake
- Cover with the remaining cake mixture, ensuring that the jam is fully covered by the cake mix
- Put in the oven straight away
- Bake for about 20 minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time, prick with a skewer if it comes away clean, the cupcakes are done
- Allow to cool slightly before turning them out of the tin
A couple of weeks ago, we were watching an episode of Countryfile where they visited the Isle of Man.
One of the features they did from there was the annual Bonnag World Championships – which, last year, was won by 11-year-old Tom Keig.
Bonnag is a traditional Manx bread which, it is believed, has been around for hundreds of years. It can be ‘plain’ as I’ve made here or can be sweet with the addition of dried fruit such as currants, raisins, candied peel and mixed spice.
I went in search of a recipe but could only find ones with sketchy quantities and instructions. I guessed at the consistency and wetness of the dough. I thought it would be really similar to Irish soda bread in its ingredients and method. Anyway, it turned out really well. It was delicious straight from the oven with a smearing of butter!
- 450g/16oz plain flour
- pinch salt
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1tsp cream of tartar
- 60g/2oz cold butter, cubed
- 250g buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Grease a baking tray and set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients
- Rub in the cubed butter and make a well in the centre
- Pour in the buttermilk and mix until the dough just comes together
- Tip the dough on to a lightly floured work surface and form it into a ball. Do not over-knead
- Place the ball of dough on to the greased baking tray and bake for ¾ of an hour or until the top becomes golden brown
- Allow to cool on a wire rack
British Pie Week has rolled around once again – an annual event in which we enjoy getting involved in wholeheartedly!
I use the week as an opportunity to make a kind of pie that I’ve never made before. This year it’s a home-made plum pie.
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of cloves, but it works amazingly well with the plums.
A drizzle of pouring cream or ladle-ful of custard over the top or on the side… a perfect cold weather pudding!
- 400g/14oz plain flour
- 120g/4oz icing sugar
- pinch of salt
- 250g/9oz very cold butter
- 2 egg yolks
- 750g/oz ripe plums stoned & thickly sliced
- 140g/oz golden caster sugar, plus extra
- ½tsp ground cloves
- 1 heaped tbsp cornflour
- Put the flour, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine
- Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely - you'll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that's just fine
- Stir the eggs, just to break them up, and add it them little at a time, pulsing after each addition
- When the eggs are in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds
- Just before your pastry reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change, so listen out
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Very lightly and sparingly - make that very, very lightly and sparingly - knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing
- Butter the pie dish and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the dish and over the rim. Don't be stingy - you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don't be too heavy-handed - you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don't want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbread-ish texture
- Freeze the pastry for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC/375ºF/Gas mark 4
- Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminium foil and fit the foil tightly against the pastry
- Bake the pastry for 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. If the pastry has puffed up, press it down gently with the back of a spoon
- Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes. Allow to cool before adding the pie filling
- Put the plums, sugar and ground cloves in a pan
- Simmer until the sugar dissolves and the plums are juicy (8-10 minutes)
- Combine the cornflour with a little of the syrup, then mix well into the fruit
- Boil for another few minutes, stirring until thickened
- Allow to cool completely
- Roll out the remaining piece of pastry into a round and, using the rolling pin, carefully lower the pastry over the filling
- Press the pastry lid into the pastry bottom either with your thumbs or a fork. Trim the excess and brush the top with a little beaten egg
- Make a slit in the pastry lid to allow steam to escape
- Bake at 175ºC/375ºF/Gas mark 4 for 20-25 minutes or until crust is brown and juice just begins to bubble through the slit in the crust
- Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing & serving
- Serve with pouring cream or hot custard
Prior to making these flatbreads, I’d never heard of piadina. That’s strange really, seeing as flatbreads from other countries are so well known – pitta, tortilla, chapati, roti…
Piadina is from the Emilia-Romagna region of north eastern Italy. It’s an area renowned for its food; the same area that produces Parmigiano Reggiano, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale and the origin of pastas such as tortellini, lasagne and tagliatelle.
This basic flatbread is traditionally made of plain white flour, lard or olive oil, salt and water and served as a street food. It’s eaten as an accompaniment to cheeses, cold meats and vegetables or with sweet fillings such as jam or chocolate spread.
These are quick, easy and delicious – devour them while they’re still warm with a selection of dips!
- 175g/6oz plain flour
- 1tsp salt
- 15ml/1tbsp olive oil
- 105ml/7tbsp lukewarm water
- Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl; make a well in the centre
- Add the oil and water to the centre of the flour and gradually mix in to form a dough
- Knead on a lightly floured surface for 4-5 minutes until smooth and elastic
- Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oild cling film and leave to rest for 20 minutes
- Heat a griddle over a medium heat
- Divide the dough into four equal pieces and roll each into 18cm/7-inch round
- Cover until ready to cook
- Lightly oil the hot griddle, add one or two piadine and cook for about 2 minutes or until they are starting to brown
- Turn the piadine over and cook for a further 1-1½ minutes
- Serve warm
- If you don't have a griddle, a large heavy frying pan will work just as well
Copyright © 2007-2017 · All rights reserved · H is for Home