Monday, 30 September 2013

Heavy Cake - the real thing!

I have seen some sorry examples of Heavy Cake in my time. So this is a bit of a rant! There are NO raising agents in Heavy Cake - and it is definitely NOT called Hevva or anything similar!! There are also NO eggs. I am exceedingly proud of my heritage and my blood often boils at the travesties that are out there pretending to be Heavy Cake.
I am the proud possessor of a signed edition, Cornish cookbook of the 1920s and in it are 4 examples, some using clotted cream - too rich. Some suet - too greasey. I perfected this recipe many years ago and it is just perfect, using the first of those recipes.
Now, you may have noticed that many Cornish recipes use chopped mixed peel and oceans of fruit and Heavy Cake is no exception. Our love of fruit in recipes is a throw back from when the Phoenicians visited Cornwall. They were from the Eastern Mediterranean [about where Lebanon is now] and a great nation of Seafarers and Traders. Over 2000 years ago they visited our shores to export the tin. They must have brought over the Saffron too. In the coming weeks and months you will see other examples of their influence.

If you see italics I will be quoting the book.

1 1/2lb of Plain Flour
4 oz butter
4 oz lard
pinch of salt.

"Don't put the butter and lard too fine in the flour". So just roughly rub the fat into the flour!

Add: 1lb currants [or the dreaded 500 gr] - never anything but currants
4 or 5 oz chopped mixed peel
Castor sugar to taste. I use about 4 oz.

Combine with a scant half pint of cold water. Bring together and tip onto a floured surface and roughly roll out, then roll up. Placing the roll back into the bowl for between 1 - 2 hours.  "light and shaley"

After that time, return to a floured surface, make into a round and flatten then start to roll out. While it is still small enough for you to lift, transfer to a lightly greased heavy based baking sheet.

Then continue to roll out to about half inch thick, maybe a little less.

Then, as the bottom picture, make a crisscross pattern across the top, resembling a fishing net. Dredge with castor sugar and place in a
preheated oven of about 200 deg C. But it depends on the oven. I know my oven and put it in at 195 deg.

Bake for about 30 mins. Cool in the tin for a few minutes then cut in half and slide onto a rack. Cut into portions of your own liking.
Can also be frozen individually.

Legend has it the miners had the pasties and the fisher folk of Cornwall made the Heavy Cake.

Cornish Fairings 
These little gems are a true taste of Cornwall. Steeped in the history of our County, they were made and sold at local Fairs and by women on stalls in the streets. Original Cornish street food! A kind of gingerbread, they keep well.

4 oz Plain Flour
2 oz butter [don't even think of using that horrible m word]
a pinch of salt
Rub in the butter until completely gone and like fine breadcrumbs

Very very finely chopped mixed peel
1 level teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda
1 level teaspoon Baking Powder
A large pinch of Mixed Spice
1 heaped teaspoon of Ground Ginger  [more if you wish]

then bind with 2 fluid oz of warmed Golden Syrup.
You may use part syrup and part treacle but I find the taste of treacle too overpowering. Some folk add considerably more ginger, but I like to keep the taste subtle.

I use 3/4 oz for each biscuit and find this just right. Roll between the palms of both hands into a little ball, then flatten slightly and place well apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 200 deg C for about 15 mins, turning occasionally making sure they brown evenly. Cool on a rack. Scrummy.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Pickled Sweet Shallots from Roscoff

These delicious pickled shallots have been an essential part of my autumn cooking routine forever and my mother before me.....

Do you remember the French Onion Johnnie's cycling around the villages of Cornwall this time of the year? You will need to be over 60 to do that! Huge strings of onions slung over their handlebars.  Now the shallots come over on the Roscoff ferry, of course and long Roscoff rosy pink shallots are just the best for pickles. They are perfect raw in salads too.

Roscoff shallots are immediately recognisable by their colour
They are not cheap however and these 3 strings cost me £12 but they are definitely worth it.

Just check out the price of the leading brand of pickled sweet shallots?!!!!

I save old jars and wash [in a dishwasher is easiest] before sterilising for a short while in the oven.

The day before.... make up a brine using sea salt. About half a pound to two - three pints of water. Stir to dissolve.
After you have peeled the shallots [these took me almost an hour and a quarter] add to the brine for about 20 - 24 hours.
Place a dinner plate on the top of the shallots to keep them submerged. Yes, this is a pain in the butt, but they will not keep unless soaked overnight.

Then you need to boil your malt vinegar, along with the pickling spices and sugar. I use 1 tablespoon of spices to a pint of vinegar and  4 oz of soft dark brown sugar. But that can be adjusted. Use more spices you like it spicier. I love the richness of brown sugar but you can use castor sugar. The liquid will not be as dark as above.  
Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before straining the spices.

In the morning rinse the shallots well and dry [I use a couple of clean tea towels] and bottle.
Store for at least 6 - 8 weeks. These will last and be perfect for at least a year.  Probably longer but I have rarely had the chance to find out! If you cannot obtain these shallots, or similar, pickling onions can be substituted. I took the top photo immediately after bottling. They will deepen in colour over the weeks. Absolutely delicious in sandwiches, cold meats, chopped on salads etc.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Christmas Cake

If it's the end of September then it is time to make a Christmas Cake and store to mature, soaked in brandy. Getting better and better every week!! I made this last week [3rd week Sept].
I have used this recipe now for over 30 years and it was my cousin's wedding cake. Not in Cornwall, unfortunately!!! At the reception I was sitting next to her grandmother and when the cake was handed around I commented to her how delicious it was, only to find she had made it. The recipe was given to me in a few days and I have used it ever since, as has my daughter and several friends.

The above monster is a 12" round [double the quantity] but it can adapt to whatever size or shape you need. You just need to adjust the timings.

Grease and line the tin. Brown paper on the outside as shown. Double thickness inside, of baking parchment. For greasing use butter or groundnut oil.

Weigh all the fruits and splash with brandy, then stir well.

Weigh all the dry ingredients.

I do all this the evening before, then I am ready to go first thing in the morning.

Basic recipe for a 9" square or 10" round, but can be smaller tins if you like your cake a little deeper.
Use good quality ingredients

1 lb currants
10 oz sultanas
10 oz raisins
6 oz cherries
2 or 3 oz chopped mixed peel
10 oz butter
12 oz soft dark brown sugar
2 large dessertspoons black treacle
6 large beaten eggs
12 oz plain flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 heaped dessert spoons of good instant coffee
1 heaped teaspoon each of orange and lemon zest
2 dessertspoons of the juice
2 dessertspoons brandy

Cream the softened butter, sugar and treacle until light and fluffy. I use a hand mixer in a large bowl.
Gradually add the eggs, a teaspoon of flour with each addition. Add the dry ingredients, then the zests, fruit and liquids.

Pile into your prepared tin and carefully level off with the back of a dessert spoon, making a barely discernible well in the centre. making the surface concave. Put in a preheated fan oven, 130 deg C for about an hour. Turn down to 120 and cook for a further 3 to 4 hours, depending on size and thickness.
My 12" cake took, in total, over 6 hours. Making a large cake, I turned down the oven to 110 for the last hour. About half way through the baking, cover with a lid of thick brown paper.

Keep in the tin for a short while then cool on a rack until cold. Turn upside down and pour brandy over the bottom. Allow to dry for an hour, then wrap in baking parchment and then foil and put in the back of a cupboard, storing upside down to use the bottom as the top. You then have a nice flat surface to work on later. After about a month repeat the brandy pouring and rewrap.
I will post again about a week or ten days before Xmas to show you a very easy way to decorate. Finished in less than half an hour, but Marzipan a week before that. No need to make that, I find the bought stuff just as good as homemade.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Parsley Stuffing

We just call this Stuffing, or even "stuff", but I had to give it a proper name. I have no idea of the origins of this delicious dressing but my Mother served it for as long as I can remember and it was my belief it was my grandmother's recipe - she was born in 1885! I have never cooked a roast chicken without this stuffed into its neck - definitely NOT bum. It is just as scrumptious when cold, to serve with cold meats. It also freezes perfectly. I will give you the basic recipe, that will probably stuff 2 everyday chickens but for my Xmas Turkey I use at least double the amount. It depends on the size.

12 oz white breadcrumbs, from a few days old, uncut loaf - no crusts
6 oz suet - Atora, light is good [but a hundred years ago it would have been the real thing]
2 oz chopped FRESH Parsley - this is a lot! [use finer stalks too]
2 teaspoons of dried mixed herbs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 eggs to bind

Cube the bread and blitz in a food processor or blender. Put in a bowl along with everything else. Beat the eggs and mix together. It's as easy as that. I batch bake and freeze little packets for use and take out the night before and leave in the fridge. Pack tightly in the neck cavity and hold with cocktail sticks, or at Xmas I sew it in. Watch out for the cotton!!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Parsnip Puff

This is such a great recipe that I have been using for decades but I have no real memory of where I got it! I know I have passed it on to many folk and it is my husband's favourite veggie dish. It can be prepared well in advance, will freeze too, so it's a handy standby for any meal.

Place 2 lb of peeled and chopped parsnips [peeled weight] in some lightly salted water and boil until just soft. About 15 - 20 mins.

Drain, then mash along with:

very very large knob of butter
2 fluid oz of single cream
generous sprinkling of freshly ground nutmeg 
lashings of freshly ground pepper.
If very stiff add a little more single cream.

Beat 2 large eggs, preferably free range, organic with nice yellow yolks!

Beat quickly into the parsnip mix. Tip into a lightly oiled overproof serving dish.
Grate some fresh Parmesan over the top, sprinkle over some sweet paprika too and loads more pepper.
[freeze at this stage and take out a few hours before baking. Allow extra time in the oven too]
Set your fan oven to about 190 deg C
Bake for about 25 - 30 mins until the top is just golden.
This amount serves about 5 - 6 people.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Carrotty Jacket Halves

Now, I am not sure if Carrotty is even a word, but it is in my kitchen. I loves these little beauties and they are so handy and versatile. They freeze so well, although do not defrost before reheating, so are handy to serve at bbqs, with cold meats or just as a side with fish or steak. I keep some as a standby in the freezer.

Choose nice round jacket potatoes and prick, then lightly rub with oil and wrap loosely in some foil and bake. I cannot give you any timings as it will depend on size but undo the foil half an hour before the end. Cool a little then carefully cut in half. Cut an edge just under a 1/4" around the inside [look above on the left hand side] and scoop out the potato and place in a bowl. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and mash.

Meanwhile - you will have cut up a largish carrot [one for each potato], place it in a small saucepan with a large knob of butter, a small dessertspoon of water [or stock], some sea salt and freshly ground pepper and a little nutmeg. Cook until just soft, then mash roughly, leaving small lumps. Now stir this into the mash potato along with a heaped teaspoon of fresh chopped parsley.

Pile into the jacket shell, top with a little grated fresh parmesan, a bit more pepper and Bake. 190 deg C for 30 mins. Longer if from frozen [just under an hour at 180], take them out about half an hour before baking. I often also add some sweet potato and sometimes finely chopped chives. I love fresh herbs.
Freeze on an open tray then pack in ziplock bags for ease to take out what you need.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Cherry & Almond Cake

This cake is a part of history! It is deliciously moreish, moist and almondy [is that a word?] and it is baked at a very, very low temperature for 3 hours. I have passed this recipe on to many friends and I am sure they have passed it on as well. I have lost count of the many times I have baked it and my husband loves it.

In July 1954 my Mother was listening to Woman's Hour on the radio. It was a momentous day!
Rationing had come to an end and you could finally buy quantities of butter. To celebrate the occasion they broadcast this recipe and my Mother wrote it down......

Prepare a 8" round loose bottomed tin, lightly oiled. No need to line it, as it is cooked at such a low temperature. Turn your fan oven to 120 deg C.

In a mixing bowl, cream:

8 oz butter  [do not even THINK of using margarine]
8 oz castor sugar

Beat together 3 large eggs, then add to the above, when light and fluffy

Then add:
8 oz Plain Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
4 oz Ground Almonds
a few drops of Almond essence
6 - 8 oz of glace cherries [the original programme suggested 4 oz, but I like more]

Mix together carefully and place in the tin. Bake for 3 hours
After one hour turn down to 115 deg C and for the final hour bake at 110 deg C

Absolutely, perfectly, delicious
It freezes like a dream too!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Saffron Buns

This recipe has been in my family for generations.  It was used by my mother and grandmother before me.  Saffron has become almost prohibitively expensive - especially Valencian.  So I trawled the net some time ago and found a supplier [see below], whose prices are more gentle on the pocket.  I generally batch bake 3 x the basic recipe, making approx 55 buns.  Freezing the majority in bags of 6 or so. Perfect.

1 lb Strong Plain Flour
4 oz fat - half each, lard and butter
4 oz castor sugar
Currants to taste - please do not be stingy! Hunt the currant is no fun.
1 oz fresh yeast - or these days, I use the equivalent of Allison's Easy Bake yeast.

Two boxes, inc postage costs less than £5. The above amount of 2 grams is just right for 3lb flour.

Place your desired amount of saffron in a barely warm oven to dry for half an hour. Lightly crush and tip into 9 fl oz of boiling water. Cool to tepid, then add a teaspoon of sugar and your yeast. Allow to start working and frothy.
Meanwhile rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add a pinch of salt too and then your sugar and fruit. Make a well and tip in your yeasty, divinely smelling liquid. Using your hands [clean of course!!!] bring the flour into the centre and mix well. This will be pretty wet, but don't panic. When incorporated tip onto a floured surface and gently kneed for a few minutes, then place back into your mixing bowl and cover with lightly oiled cling film and allow to rise. I cannot give you an exact timing as it will depend on the air temperature and where you put it. But wait until it's double in size. Go and do something else! Tip back onto the floured surface and lightly kneed again for a minute or so. Get some scales with a plate on it. Prepare your baking sheet. Now you need to decide how large your buns need to be? The above were weighed out at 2 1/4 ounces. Of course, you do not have to weigh the dough out, but its nice to have them all the same size! Carefully shape them, always turning the dough inwards on the bottom. Place on the baking sheet, in rows and allow to rise for the last time for 30 mins or so. Warm your fan oven to 180. Cook for about 20 mins. Freeze as soon as they are cold, then to use, microwave for a few seconds and they will come out as if they were just freshly cooked.

Do you butter yours? Some do. I don't!

This recipe can also be used for Yeast Buns. Just omit the saffron and substitute sultanas for currants.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Pineapple Fruit Cake

Pineapple Fruit Cake

A deliciously moist cake that is so easy to Bake!! It keeps for up to 4 weeks too. You start off with.....

A can of crushed Pineapple! 

Place this [Del Monte 435 gr] in a large saucepan, along with
4 oz butter
1 cup of castor sugar
1 lb mixed fruit
some peel and cherries to the weight of about 4 oz [or more fruit]
1 level teaspoon of cinnamon
1 level teaspoon mixed spice

Gently bring this to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 5 mins then allow to cool for about an hour, maybe a little less. [if desperate I have done it in 30 mins, but be very careful]

Now add:
2 cups of Self Raising flour
2 large beaten eggs

Tip into a prepared 8" tin or also cooks well in a 2lb loaf tin. This is often easier to slice. Whatever!
This recipe is so adaptable and behaves perfectly.

Bake in heated fan oven 140 for 1hour 45 mins or ten minutes longer for the loaf tin.
Check the top and turn down temp for last 15 mins.
Although scrummy as soon as it is cool, it does improve in a day or two.

I love using cups as a measurement and they are readily available for a pound or two.