January 14, 2010

All-purpose, To-Be-Recommended, Fruit Cake recipe

AJLR, 28 Dec 2009, Recipe Thread

Re the discussions about fruit cakes we’ve had on the Blog Posts forum recently, I had this recipe from the friend who made my wedding cake, many years ago. I’ve used it often since and it always works and being a boiled mixture, it keeps very well.

1 lb of mixed, dried, fruit*
2 oz each of walnuts and glace cherries, roughly chopped
6 oz butter (a stick and a half)
6 – 8 oz/1 cup sugar**
8 fl oz/1 cup water
1 heaped tsp of ground mixed spice
2 large eggs
8 oz/2 cups self-raising flour, or 8 oz plain flour + 2 tsps baking powder***

Put all the ingredients except the eggs and flour in a large saucepan and bring up to simmering point. Continue to simmer gently for 10 – 15 minutes, until the mixture has thickened slightly and looks glossy. Remove from heat and leave to cool for at least an hour. While this is happening, grease and line an 8″ cake tin (which should also be at least 3″ deep). Turn oven on to Gas Mark 1 or equivalent.

Pour the semi-cooled fruit mixture into a large bowl. Beat both eggs in (with a fork is fine)^, then sift the flour (plus BP if using) on top of the mixture and fold in as well. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and place on the middle shelf in the oven. Leave to cook for around one and a half hours, testing with a skewer in the centre of the cake to see if it’s done (skewer will come out clean if it’s cooked all through). When cooked, turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and leave the cake in there for about an hour. After that time, turn the cake out onto a baking rack to let cool completely.

* I often substitute dried, chopped dates and apricots for about half of the usual vine fruits mixture.

** Use slightly more or less sugar to taste. I often use part white and part soft brown sugar.

*** This works fine with a 50:50 mixture of white and wholemeal flour. Using all wholemeal does make the cake a bit too dense.

^ NB If the mixture isn’t sufficiently cool – ie, cool enough that it doesn’t burn you – you will at this stage find that you have a bowl full of very fruity scrambled eggs – which is not what you want!


AJLR, in forum Recipe Thread, 15 Nov 2009

A very quick and easy recipe.

5 oz self-raising flour (or 5 oz plain flour + 1 level tsp baking powder)
half a level tsp of bicarbonate of soda
2 rounded tsps of ground ginger (I like my gingernuts to taste of ginger)
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
2 level tsps castor sugar (granulated is OK if you can’t get the smaller-grain castor)
2 pieces (each about the size of one’s top thumb joint) of preserved stem ginger, finely chopped
2 oz (half a stick) semi-salted or unsalted butter
3 oz golden syrup, or maple syrup

Heat oven to gas mark 5*. Sift the first four ingredients together into the mixing bowl. Add in the sugar. Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and stir in the syrup and bits of chopped stem ginger (and a little of the ginger syrup they’re preserved in, if you wish – about 2 tsps). Stir the butter/syrup mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. Take small pieces of the mixture, about the size of a walnut/large pecan nut, roll briefly between the palms and put on a well-greased baking sheet, or one with baking paper on, giving them at least 2 inches between each piece. Flatten each one slightly and put in the centre of the oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Allow to cool on a baking rack. Makes 12 – 14 biscuits.

*Black Bear adds: Gas mark 5 is about 375° F in States-ese.

Courgette Soup

AJLR, 4 Sept 09, PWYF Forum

1 lb courgettes (zucchini)
4 spring onions/scallions,
An ounce and a bit of butter
2 pints good stock (veg or chicken)
1 T plain/all purpose flour
Leaves from 4 or 5 sprigs of mint

Saute the onions, sliced, in the butter for 4 – 5 minutes. Trim the courgettes and slice fairly thinly, add to the onions in the pan and stir around, then lower heat, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour onto the mixture in the pan and stir around. Slowly add half the (hot) stock and stir until thickened. Add the washed mint leaves and simmer for 10 minutes, then either blend in the pan with a stick blender or pour into a liquidiser and do it that way. Add remaining stock, once everything is back in the pan, and heat through. Season to taste.

This freezes well.

Goes very well with fresh bread.

Red Courgettes

AJLR, 17 July 09, Recipe Thread

2 lbs of courgettes (zucchini)
1 clove garlic
2 rounded T condensed tomato paste
1 T vegetable oil
Seasoning to taste
a few basil leaves (optional)

Skin and chop the garlic and add to the (hot) oil in a large frying or saute pan. Quickly cut each (already washed and trimmed) courgette right down the centre and then chop across on a slight diagonal at approx half inch intervals. Add to the pan with the garlic and fry until lightly browned on both side. Turn the heat down a bit and add the tomato paste and 2 T water, also the seasoning. I add a scant half tsp of sugar at this stage also, as it brings out the tomato flavour beautifully. Stir and fry for a couple more minutes, until the courgette pieces are well coated in tomato. Serve with a scattering of basil leaves if you have them to hand.

This goes with almost anything as a side dish. It’s also good as an omelette filling, or with cooked pasta stirred in and then parmesan grated on top.

A slight variation on this is to add a finely chopped onion once the courgettes are starting to brown, letting them cook together for a few minutes, then adding a can of chopped tomatoes instead of the condensed paste and allowing it to cook down a bit. Also very good.

Parmigiana di Melanzane

AJLR, 15 April 09, Recipe Thread

Antonio Carluccio, from ‘The Taste of Health’, BBC, 1985
Serves 4

2 lbs aubergines/eggplant (I use two large or three medium sized ones)
some olive oil
2 x 6 ox fresh mozzarella, ie, the small ball of cheese in whey, in a sealed bag
2 x 14 ox cans chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
2 T freshly grated parmesan cheese
seasoning to taste

First make the tomato sauce: crush/chop the garlic cloves, fry in a medium saucepan in some hot olive oil. After 30 seconds add the two tins of chopped tomato, some freshly ground black pepper, and a half tsp of sugar. Bring to simmering point and leave to cook and thicken on a low-ish heat for about 15 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, wash the aubergines and cut into slices of about 1cm or half inch thick. Place in a single layer on a grill pan, brush with olive oil and put under a pre-heated, grill until browned. Turn slices over, brush with a little more oil, grill till brown. Repeat until all slices browned on both sides. Keep the slices warm.

Take mozzarella cheese balls out of their little bags and dry. Slice them fairly thinly. In a large oven-proof dish (about two litres/five pints) spread 3 – 4 T of the tomato sauce on the bottom, add a layer of aubergines slices, then some mozzarella slices, repeat until all three ingredients are used up. Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top of the final layer. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes in the centre of an oven preheated to Gas Mk 7.

NB Needs a sharp knife to cut into portions and even then the melted mozzarella will try to hang on to everything within reach.

‘What’s in the Fridge’ Omelette

AJLR, 9 March 09, Recipe Thread

Filling for two omelettes:

2 heaped T cooked spinach (which has had as much moisture as possible squeezed out of it)
1 small clove garlic (optional), peeled and crushed
1 rounded T pine nuts
2 rounded T crumbled feta cheese
2 tsps oil or butter
a scrape of nutmeg (optional)

Dry roast pine nuts in a smallish pan, for the few minutes until golden on both sides. Put pine nuts to one side for a moment and heat oil/butter in the pan, then add the garlic bits. Heat for 30 seconds then add the spinach and nutmeg. Stir over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the feta. Heat for another minute and then add the pine nuts. Use half straight away as the filling in an omelette (that you’ve had cooking in a separate pan at the same time). Repeat with second omelette.

Sausage, Onion and Potato Casserole

AJRL, Recipe thread, 24 December 08

(for 3 – 4 portions)

1 1b of good sausages (pork and herb or pork and leek are good), ie those from a butcher or brand you trust and with at least 80% meat in the filling.

2 lbs potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced (either on a mandolin or with a sharp knife and a keen eye to your fingertips)

1 lb onions, peeled and also sliced very thinly

1 rounded T tomato puree

1 tsp mustard (Dijon is good)

1 pint (US) or 3 / 4 pint (UK) of either milk or good chicken stock, brought to simmering point

2 T butter

Seasoning to taste

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6. Use some of the butter to well-grease a good sized casserole dish. Layer the sliced potatoes and onions thickly in the casserole dish (overall to a depth of around 2 inches), seasoning to taste as you go. Add the tomato puree and mustard to the hot milk/stock and stir to mix well. Pour this mixture over the vegetables in the dish, dot the top with the remaining butter, and put the dish, covered, into the middle of the oven for an hour and a quarter (standing the dish on an oven tray). After the first hour and a quarter, place the sausages, individually, directly on top of the onion/potato and return to oven, uncovered. Cook for about another 30 – 40 minutes, until the sausages are brown and done and the onion/potato layers are nicely soft underneath and crispy on top.

The potato and onion part of this dish is nice with all sorts of other things as well, just remember to give it at least an hour and a half cooking time overall. If making it without the sausages I often add half a tsp of dried sage in with the liquid.

Bran Tea Loaf

AJLR: Recipe Thread: December 14, 2008

Bran Tea Loaf


All Bran (the breakfast cereal from Kelloggs – I’m assuming this is widely available? If you can’t get it, use ordinary bran but only about 3/4 of the quantity. It doesn’t work with Bran Flakes – not enough bran in that)
Dried mixed fruit
Sugar (any granulated type is fine)
Milk (I use semi-skimmed but any type is fine)
Self-raising flour (or plain/all-purpose flour with a rounded tsp of baking powder to a mug-full)

To make a mixture that slightly more than half fills a 2 lb loaf tin, you will need an average-sized (half a pint or 10 fl oz) coffee mug of each of the above ingredients.

Put a mug-full of each of the first four ingredients together into a good-sized mixing bowl and leave to soak for an hour (needs slightly less soaking time if you’re using skimmed milk). Grease the loaf tin (or any other baking/cake tin of approximately the same capacity) well – this really does need to be well greased and I’ve found butter works much better than oil. After the hour’s soaking time, add the mug-full of flour and stir everything well. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and put into the middle of an oven, pre-heated to 200 degrees C (gas mark 6), for an hour, checking from 45 minutes onwards if you’re using a tin that allows the mixture to spread out more than a loaf tin will. It’s done when the top is firm to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes and then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

This will keep for 4 days if kept well-wrapped (not that it usually has a chance to, around here…)


AJLR, 5 Sept 08, comment to ‘It’s always a good day for chocolate’

The quantities below are what I use for 2 hungry people for whom the Tabbouleh will be the main carb/veg elements in a main meal. However, as I expect most people know, this dish can be made with a varying ratio of bulgar wheat to herbs to oil/lemon juice, so is infinitely adjustable to your own taste/hunger/occasion.

Bulgar wheat, to the 6oz level in a measuring jug
Juice from 2 medium lemons

6 good sized spring onions (scallions) or half a medium red onion if spring onions not available
4 T good olive oil (extra virgin for preference)

Large bunch of fresh washed mint (about 2 oz of leaves)
Small(er) bunch of washed green coriander or parsley (about 1 oz of leaves/some stalk)

Crispy lettuce (2 small or 1 large, Cos or similar)

Rinse the bulgar wheat in a sieve under cold running water, drain quickly and put back in the jug. Add the same volume of cold water as the wheat comes to and leave to soak at least 30 minutes. Wash and finely slice the onions (the white part and an inch or so of the green).

After the wheat has finished soaking it should have at least doubled in volume. Drain wheat thoroughly and empty into the serving bowl to be used. Mix in the oil, lemon juice and sliced onions and leave in a cool place for things to soak up flavour and liquid for at least 30 minutes.

Separate out the washed and dried lettuce leaves, cutting in half horizontally those more than about 4 – 5 inches long (so they can be used as manageable scoops to eat the tabbouleh). Chop herbs (by now reasonably dry) together, fairly finely (do not use a food processor – little flecks are needed, not mush). The great mound of unchopped leaves will go down to about two joined/cupped handfuls. Add to bowl containing bulgar wheat and mix well in. Taste to check lemon/oil balance is OK and then serve in a mound, with lettuce leaves round to use as scoops/wraps.

I make this without any salt as I find the lemon juice and herbs are enough seasoning. On days that feel a bit too chily for a salad I serve it alongside pork fillet, either roasted and sliced or cut into medallions and lightly coated in seasoned flour then fried.

I shall be interested to see variations on this recipe – which is adapted from the one in Claudia Roden’s wonderful ‘New Book of Middle Eastern Cookery’.

Cheat’s Dinner Party Dessert (or Pudding)

AJLR, 27 June 09, comment to ‘Tea at the Ritz’

Serves 6 – 8


Dairy Version
1 and a half pints (UK pint = 20 fl oz) cream. Anywhere from 38 – 45% fat is fine, so long as it will whip to a fairly stiff consistency
1/4 pt of either sweetish sherry (I use Amontillado), or dark rum, or perhaps a fruity brandy, in a small shallow bowl#
Either a packet of good quality cookies, or a to-hand batch of one’s own cookie baking. Choc chip is good, or with nuts, probably best to avoid any with dried fruit.
2 oz good dark choc chips or grated choc for decoration

NB Make this 24 hours BEFORE it is going to be served.
Whip the cream in a large bowl until it is just after the ‘leaving a trail’ stage – you need it reasonably stiff. Starting with a 1″ bottom layer of the whipped cream (in the bowl you will be serving from at the table), quickly dunk sufficient cookies, one at a time, in the sherry/rum/brandy/whatever and use to form a complete but not overlapping layer on top of the cream. Repeat to use all ingredients (I generally get three layers of cream and two of cookies, depending on the shape of the serving bowl), finishing with a cream layer. Cover top of the bowl with clingfilm (making sure not to let it touch the cream) and put in the top of the fridge until an hour or so before serving. Remove from fridge and decorate with choc shavings or chips.

The moisture from the cream + the alcohol makes everything meld together and appear more complicated to make than it is. :)

I have made this slightly less heavy on occasion by folding two stiffly whipped egg whites into the whipped cream, in which case one needs about 25% less cream. However that extra stage does make it a bit less of a ‘cheat’ dessert.

# any liquid left in the bowl after dipping all the cookies is cook’s perks!


However, for those whose digestions are not able to tolerate all that cream, this has also been very well-received:


Non-Dairy Version
Cookies as above (ginger ones are good for this, too)
Sherry/rum/whatever as above
Dark choc for decoration as above
3 large (14 oz each) tins pear halves (in juice, not syrup) + 2 tsp lemon juice
3 rounded tsps arrowroot, or cornflour if no arrowroot

Make around 4 – 6 hours ahead of serving

Purée/liquidise the pears together with about 1/4 pt of the juice. Pour results into a small saucepan, add arrowroot and heat, stirring gently, until thickened*. Allow to cool till no more than tepid. Then just follow the assembly instructions above, replacing the cream layers with thickened pear purée ones. Because this is a wetter mixture than the dairy version, it’s best not to make it the day before but it does need a few hours to join together.


* If using arrowroot, take off the heat as soon as thickened or it will start to get thinner again – as the Wikipedia entry says: “Arrowroot thickens at a lower temperature than does flour or cornstarch. It is recommended to mix arrowroot with a cool liquid before adding to a hot fluid. The mixture should be heated only until mixture thickens and removed immediately to prevent mixture from thinning. Overheating tends to break down arrowroot’s thickening property. Substitute two teaspoons of arrowroot for one tablespoon of cornstarch”


Next Page »