Recently, we’ve been challenging ourselves to get by on a weekly food budget of £30.00 for two. We’ve been managing very well to date; buying carefully, preparing sauces in bulk (some which we freeze for future meals) – and using up tinned foods that have been half-forgotten in the cupboard.
One of those tins were these Baldji’s Kalamata fresh figs in syrup. I think I bought them over a year ago with the intention of making some sort of dessert. After looking for a little online inspiration, I found a River Cottage recipe for fig, almond and walnut loaf.
Their recipe included dried figs and water so I simply used the equivalent weight of the tinned figs and their syrup. I also needed to double the cook time from 20 to 40 minutes.
Once the mixture was ready to put into the tin and on to the oven, I must admit, it didn’t look promising. It had the colour and consistency of refried beans. A bit of a grey, purple, sludgy slop!
Luckily, looks were deceiving as it turned out very well – delicious in fact. A few people have tried it – some would prefer it a little sweeter, so sugar, Stevia or agave could be added. We found that a drizzle of honey on the top of a slice was the perfect addition. The flavour works really well with the figs and gives that extra sweetness too.
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Pre-heat the oven to 150°C/300ºF/Gas mark 2
Line a 500g/1lb loaf tin with baking parchment
Roughly chop the figs and add them with the water to a small saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer gently until most of the water is absorbed
Blitz the figs in a food processor until they form a coarse paste
Add the ground almonds and process again until damp crumbs form
Add the walnuts and salt and process again briefly until they're coarsely chopped. Set aside.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat eggs and bicarbonate of soda with an electric hand whisk until frothy
Whilst still beating, slowly drizzle in the coconut oil/butter in a thin stream and continue beating until the eggs are pale, thick and doubled in volume
Sprinkle vinegar over the eggs and beat briefly to distribute evenly. Work quickly as the vinegar will activate the bicarbonate of soda
Tip the nut mixture onto the eggs and fold in thoroughly with a metal spoon until the nuts are evenly distributed
Scrape into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes away clean. Give the loaf more time to bake and perhaps turn the temperature down if it browns too fast
Cool on a wire rack before eating
You can store the loaf in an air-tight container in a cool place for up to 3 days - or slice & freeze for up to 2 weeks
Our food cupboard is full to bursting with last year’s home-made jams, jellies and other preserves. This year’s preserves have no place to live! One of the best ways to use up a fair amount of some of that jelly is to make a Swiss roll. Any excuse to make cake!
If you look on the internet, you’ll find a lot of debate about what constitutes a ‘proper’ Swiss roll. Vanilla sponge or chocolate sponge? Jam on its own or jam and whipped cream together? Whipped cream or buttercream?
For the purposes of this post (and our own personal preference) we’re going vanilla sponge with raspberry jelly.
You can buy a specialised Swiss roll cake tin for the job, but I’ve used a large, shallow baking sheet. I like my roll to have thinner, but a greater number of layers.
To attain a lovely, light sponge, cake flour is preferred. It’s much more widely available in the USA, but you can knock up a decent approximation yourself. For every 130 grams / 4¼oz of flour, remove 2 tablespoons and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornflour. Just make sure you sift them together really well to combine.
There are a couple of tips for a successful rolling stage. Roll the sponge whilst it’s still warm, allow it to cool, unroll it, spread the jam/jelly/cream/buttercream and roll it back up again. The other tip is to make a straight, shallow groove along the entire width, about 1cm from the edge from which you begin the roll to help get it… rolling. Perhaps my photo above can better explain what I mean!
Delicious with an afternoon cup of tea – or served as a dessert with whipped cream.
Nadiya gave viewers a really useful scone-making hint that I’d never heard before. She advised when cutting out the rounds, don’t twist the cutter as this makes the scones lean when rising during baking. One to remember!
The other revelation was using onion salt in the recipe. We have some pots of wonderful Cornish Sea Salt, one of which is onion flavoured. I find ‘regular’ onion salt tastes a bit strong, but this one is more subtle – so I added double the ¼tsp measure she sets out. It worked perfectly.
The entire process took half an hour from start to delicious end. Nadiya served up hers with her own home-made chive butter; however, plain old salted works a treat too. I reckon red Leicester cheese scones would be successful as part of an alternative ploughman’s lunch – served with cold meats, boiled eggs, salad and pickled onions & red cabbage. Great for picnics, drinks parties or afternoon teas too..
We planted a rhubarb crown in a dolly tub in our garden about 3 years ago. Gardening/allotment experts say you should allow a young plant at least a year without harvesting to encourage vigour. We’ve finally felt able to pick a few stalks this year.
I’d normally use it to make a crumble however, I’ve never made a rhubarb upside-down cake before and thought it would go down a treat.
I tweaked a recipe I found on the Guardian website. The results were so delicious, I’m already planning on reusing the recipe to make a pear upside-down cake next week.
I love the pretty patterns that you can make with fruit on the ‘top’ of upside-down cakes.
The cake batter is one of the easiest I’ve ever thrown together. It calls for vegetable oil instead of butter, a couple of eggs, caster sugar, flour and baking powder – just mix the wet into the dry ingredients. It takes all of about 3 minutes!
The soft brown sugar and butter in the base of the skillet came together to form the most wonderful, chewy caramelised edges.
It was lovely with a little pouring cream but it would be equally good – hot or room temperature – with vanilla ice cream or on its own.
This pretzel loaf has been on my ‘to bake’ list for weeks. I’ve been putting it off because we’ve been having a very busy June. Instead, I’ve made a couple of recipes that were quick & easy to pull together, bake and photograph.
I needn’t have delayed, making a pretzel loaf isn’t as long, drawn out or difficult as I’d imagined. I think it was the boiling process that put me off attempting it for so long.
Yes, it did seem a bit strange par-boiling a ball of dough; but the technique produced a beautifully browned and deliciously chewy crust. It was a bit fiddly, make sure you use a large enough saucepan with enough boiling water. I had a pair of stainless steel skimmers which were perfect for the job of flipping the loaf over in the pan.
My decision to experiment with smoked salt flakes instead of traditional pretzel salt was a success – it gave it a very subtle flavour which didn’t overpower in the least.
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast
Mix for a couple of seconds on low to combine the dry ingredients
With the mixer on low, carefully pour in the milk and water. Continue mixing on low until you have a smooth, soft, slightly tacky dough
Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with cling film or put it inside a large, clear plastic bag and set aside somewhere warm to rise until doubled in size (about an hour)
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400°F/Gas mark
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface
Lift the dough, gently pull the edge of the dough down and tuck under. Turn the dough a ¼ turn and repeat. Do this until you've formed a cohesive round. Place the round on the clean surface and use your hands to gently turn and tighten the dough down over the surface
Place on the prepared baking sheet, cover with a clean tea towel or length of oiled cling film and allow to rise while the oven preheats
Bring 2 litres of water to a boil in a large stainless steel or other non-reactive pan (enamelled cast-iron, tempered glass etc.)
When the water comes to a boil, add the brown sugar and bicarbonate of soda
Gently lift the loaf and carefully ease the dough - top side down first - into the boiling water
Simmer for about 3 minutes, flip the dough over using two spatulas or slotted spoons and simmer on that side for another 2 minutes
Use the two spatulas or slotted spoons to carefully lift the dough out of the water and transfer back over to the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Spritz the loaf with water and sprinkle with the coarse salt
Using a lamé or a sharp knife, slice along the contours of the bread about ½cm/¼-inch thick.
Bake for 35 minutes or until deep brown
Transfer the loaf to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before slicing
I made one of my regular batches of fruit and nut flapjack this week. Not only is it the perfect accompaniment to a mug of tea, it also has some distinct health benefits.
Justin and I were both born in the 1960s, which means we’re getting on a bit! It’s perhaps time to start considering our health and brain function into old age.
It seems like diet could be a very important factor. Oily fish is often cited as great ‘brain food’, but nuts are also a fantastic source of cerebral nourishment.
Here’s a selection of commonly found (and tasty!) nuts and some of their recognised health benefits.
Almonds are very high in vitamin E (good for glowing skin). They’re also a good source of omega-6 and 9 (poly)unsaturated fatty acids
Un-roasted walnuts contain twice as many antioxidants as other nuts or seeds
Brazil nuts are perhaps the richest dietary source of selenium (a mineral important for cognitive function and a maintaining a healthy immune system). Eating just 2 give you 100% of the recommended daily allowance
Cashew nuts contain a high concentration of essential minerals including magnesium (thought to counter age-related memory loss), phosphorus and zinc
Macadamia nuts are an excellent source of manganese and thiamine (vitamin B1)
Flaxseeds have one of the highest concentrations of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (Useful in maintaining healthy brain and visual functions). Especially important if you’re vegetarian or vegan as it is most commonly found in oily fish
Whole sesame seeds are a very good source of iron (again, important for vegetarians and vegans)
This flapjack is quick and easy to make – and is so delicious, that the health benefits are an additional bonus… and we didn’t even get started on the goodness of dried fruit!