Archives for the month of: January, 2019

Its a pretty miserable time of year – Spring seems rather far off and the Christmas celebrations are a distant memory, the only reminder being stray pine needles that seem to take up permanent residence under the sofa and the occasional discovery of a forgotten stocking filler.
Lent looms in February and so quite honestly I think we can all be forgiven for indulging in the occasional treat. A homely slice of cake comes under my mantra or ‘all things in moderation’ and as long as you don’t tuck into the whole thing in one go, or perhaps just save it for the weekend I look upon it as a medicinal necessity! Especially if like us you are spending a lot of time clearing garden debris, making bonfires and generally getting rid of the old to make way for the new that is presumably even as I type gearing itself up to pop up over the next few months.
This cake is perfect for this. It’s dense, delicious and keeps for ages in a tin. It can be used as a pudding, with perhaps a toffee sauce, ice cream or just some cream whipped up with orange rind and ginger syrup. Or it is just as good plain, with a dusting of icing sugar (that feels sensible and less indulgent) or with a generous spread of orange & ginger butter icing on top. I particularly like to use the organic, unsulphured dark apricots that don’t look nearly as exciting as the bright day-glo orange variety but my goodness, they certainly deliver on flavour and I think make for a far more interesting and sophisticated flavour. You can vary the date/apricot/ginger combination to suit what you have available.

Serves up to 10

Preheat oven to 170 fan

280g organic apricots
100g good quality stoned dates
3 balls stem ginger from a jar
300ml boiling water
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
90g softened unsalted butter
175g dark brown sugar (or light if you prefer, or a mix of the two)
Rind of one orange
3 large free range eggs
110g wholemeal plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
110g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch sea salt

Line a 9″/23cm springform tin with baking parchment.

Put the apricots and dates into a heatproof bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and pour the boiling water over. Leave to sit for five or ten minutes. Add the ginger and then blitz in a food processor until pureed but still lumpy.

Cream the butter with the sugar until pale and creamy and add the orange rind.
Add in the eggs, one by one. Whisk the flours, baking powder and spices together with a balloon whisk and then fold into the butter/egg mix along with a pinch of salt. Fold in the apricots, dates etc.

Turn into the prepared tin and bake for about fifty minutes until risen and a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Either eat as it is, enjoy with some ginger and orange cream (simply whisk some ginger syrup and orange rind into some double cream until lightly whipped) or spread this butter icing on top.

ORANGE & GINGER BUTTER ICING

100g unsalted softened butter
175g icing sugar, sifted
rind one orange
2 tablespoon ginger syrup from a jar

Whisk the butter well until really well whipped and creamy. Continue whisking in the icing sugar and really well blended and then add in the orange rind and ginger syrup. Spread over the top of the cake and finish with some finely chopped stem ginger, if liked.

This is a great way to use up some of that Stilton that lingers in the fridge after all the festivities. Celeriac, with its wonderful, subtlety celery flavour and velvet texture pairs wonderfully well with any blue cheese that you may need to use up. Sourdough croutons provide an indulgent crunch, somewhat reminiscent of cheese on toast and unfortunately with all of the guilt. But these grey days that seem so short and dark need a bit of a comfort blanket and a delicious soup is as good a place to start as any.
This will keep well in the freezer.

Serves four

1 tablespoon olive or rapeseed oil
Small knob of butter
1 onion
2 sticks celery
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
1 small celeriac, peeled and chopped
1 litre chicken or veg stock
Sea salt and black pepper
50g blue cheese (e.g Stilton or similar)

CROUTONS

100g sourdough bread, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil
40g Stilton, (or similar) grated
Sea salt and pepper
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)

Start the soup. Cut the opinion finely and chop the celery. Heat the oil and butter in a pan and add the onion and celery. Sweat gently for a few minutes to soften. Add the potato and celeriac and stir to coat well with the rest of the veg. Cook for a minute or two and then add the hot stock. It should just cover the vegetables, reserve the rest for later. Sinner for about twenty minutes until everything is very soft.

Heat the oven to 200c. Toss the bread cubes with the oil and grate over 30g of the Stilton. Mx well and spread out onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with fresh thyme if using. Bake for about ten minutes until golden and then grate over the remaining cheese. Toss again and return to the oven for another two or three minutes.

Blend the soup with a hand held blender or in a liquidiser and add the crumbled cheese. Blend again until smooth. Adjust the thickness of your soup with the remaining stock and season well.

Heat through and serve with the croutons and a little more fresh thyme leaves. Extra cheese crumbled over the top of the soup is an extra indulgence and rather good.

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