Monday, 19 September 2011

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

I often bake a cake on Sunday afternoons or Monday mornings for the Oasis Fairtrade Tearoom, open on a Monday from 2.30-4.30pm at Ditton Church Centre.  The tearoom is free and you get pretty bone china teacups and a cake fork, plus a warm welcome and a chance to catch up with friends and make new ones.  It coincides with school pick-up times - and being placed right next to 2 schools, a preschool and an Old People's Home it is wonderfully located.  You can sit outside when the weather's nice and there's a lovely garden for kids to play in.  If you haven't been there yet, go soon!  You can buy Kemp's Kitchen Homemade preserves there too...

Today, amongst other yummy delights, you will find a Rhubarb Crumble Cake - it's currently in the oven downstairs and will be dusted with icing sugar and delivered to the tea-room once it's cold.  Thanks to my neighbour Laura for the Rhubarb - the second generous donation this summer.  In case you don't get a chance to visit the tearoom, here's the recipe so you can make it yourself.  It's adapted from Leith's Baking Bible - a mighty and wonderful tome.

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

Pre-heat oven to 190c.  Grease and line a springform cake tin.

First, make the crumble topping.  Rub 80g butter into 100g plain flour.  It will be more buttery and lumpy than normal crumble mixture.  Stir through 50g granulated sugar.

Prepare the rhubarb - wash  about 800g rhubarb and cut into 1 inch pieces. Toss with 2 tbsp granulated sugar.

Prepare the base.  Mix together for 2 mins in an electric mixer: 100g softened butter or margerine, 100g caster sugar, 2 large eggs, 100g self-raising flour and a pinch of salt.  All the ingredients should be at room temperature to avoid the mixture curdling.  Here's a picture of the different bits ready to assemble:

Turn the base out into the prepared tin.  Cover carefully with the Rhubarb, then sprinkle over the crumble topping.  It will seem like not much cake mixture and too much rhubarb - but it does work! Bake for about an hour or until cooked through.  Here it is, ready for the oven.

Cool completely in the tin, then turn out and dust with icing sugar just before serving.

This is also great as a dessert with cream or custard.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Alone but not lonely

We are studying 'The Prodigal Son' with our 15-21 youth group on Sunday evenings this term. Some of you will have studied the series before - it takes an unusual view on the familiar story, looking at each character in turn through a reflection on Rembrandt's painting on the same theme.

Last week we looked at the father and the nature of his unconditional love for his son.  Rembrandt painted this picture near the end of his life - and it seems he identifies himself with the father in the picture.  This week, however, we were examining the prodigal son himself.  As a young man Rembrandt had apparently followed a similar path - spending money foolishly and ending up penniless and dejected.  So he identifies with both characters.  We pondered on how lonely the son must have felt, feeling of no worth to anyone.  He was not alone - his father loved him unconditionally - but he had to make the brave journey home to experience that love once again.  There was much discussion about his shoes - and why Rembrandt chose to paint them that way - and another debate about food - and whether being lonely was when you realised no one cared whether or not you were getting enough to eat.

Whilst we had this erstwhile deliberation, we munched Chocolate Chip Cookies, made by Hannah earlier in the evening.  And we bade farewell to two group members, off to Uni this week.  We hope, as they remember these cookies, loving prepared, if they are ever lonely they will know they are not alone and are loved unconditionally.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sausages with Boulangere Potatoes and Apples

Sitting in church, whilst (naturally) listening intently to the sermon, an image of meltingly delicious slow roasted pork shoulder with boulangere potatoes kept tantalising me.   I invited Mr Wobbly, our regular Sunday lunch companion, to join us at 5pm.  I had arranged to walk with a friend at 1pm, so planned a quick trip to the supermarket (not, of course that I go shopping on a Sunday as a matter of course...) and to put the joint into roast slowly in a moderate oven whilst we were out.

However, a search for my keys revealed that I had packed them in the neighbour's baby's suitcase when he stayed over last night.  The neighbours were out.. no trip to the supermarket for me.

So instead I searched for inspiration in the freezer.  Boil in the bag cod with Boulangere potatoes?  Perhaps not.  Chicken soup?  2 chops?  But there were 4 of us.  Ah - sausages.  Well, they're pork aren't they?

So here it is - Sausages with Boulangere Potatoes and Apples

In the food processor, thinly slice 2 onions and about 5 large potatoes.  Core but don't peel 2 cooking apples and slice into 1/2 centimetre rounds.

Mix the onions and potatoes with your hands, and layer into a baking dish with the apple slices.  As you layer it up, add some chopped garlic, fresh chopped sage leaves, thyme, salt and pepper.  Pour over 1/2 pint of vegetable or chicken stock and lay 12 pork sausages on the top of this.  Cover with foil and bake slowly for 2-3 hours at 140c.  Remove the foil, turn the sausages and cook at 180c for the last 30 mins.

Serve with fresh runner beans (Mr. Wobbly arrived with a pan of the same - ready prepared) and good company.

Poached pears with chocolate sauce makes a good - a seasonal - pudding to follow.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup with Red Lentils

It's a welcome day off and, though I have been up since 6, I have spent the morning in PJs doing things around the house and chatting - to family, to friends on the phone, to the dog - and often to myself!  Over a breakfast chat, the daughter requested soup for supper tonight, so I waved her off at 7 and rummaged through the kitchen cupboards for inspiration.   I happened upon a butternut squash bought for £1 and then forgotten.  I chopped a bit and stirred a bit - and the result was so delicious I had 2 bowls for breakfast and the daughter may be getting sausages for tea instead...

Here is the recipe.  I hope you like it :)

Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup with Red Lentils

Boil the kettle.  Make a cup of tea, and keep the rest of the hot water to add to the soup.  Drink the tea whilst pottering in your kitchen (listening to Radio 4 is optional but recommended).

Melt 1-2 tbsp butter (or dairy-free margerine) in a heavy casserole or saucepan.  Add:
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped (I don't bother to peel them)
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 peeled and diced butternut squash, seeds and stringy bits removed
Saute over a medium heat until soft and just beginning to caramelise on the bottom of the pan.  Add 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste from a jar (or chop some fresh root ginger and garlic) and 1 tbsp curry powder (I used Madras).  Stir through the veg and cook for a further few minutes.  Add 2 handfuls of red lentils and again, cook for a further few minutes.

Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme (I tie the ends with a rubber band to make it easier to remove the stalks later), salt and pepper.

Pour over enough water to cover the veg generously.  Add a couple of veggie or chicken stock cubes, crushed, or 1 tbsp of gluten&dairy free stock powder (I used Marigold).  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 1/2 hour or until everything is soft.  Blitz (or leave chunky if you like) and heat through before serving.

Chef's recommendation: Eat 2 bowls for breakfast and try to keep the rest for supper - or serve them something else and pretend the soup never existed.

Special Birth Centre Lemon Drizzle Cake

Last year I was part of the local birth centre planning group at the invitation of the local consultant midwife.  As chair of the local RCM I wanted to ensure the midwives wishes were being heard and that the new midwife-led service would serve the needs of local women.  As a midwifery lecturer I wanted to ensure it would be a supportive and nuturing environment for students.  As a midwife I wanted to work clinically there.  As a friend, I wanted to support Sarah, the consultant midwife, who felt like she was swimming in treacle trying to move the plans forward in the face of strong opposition.

Several unproductive meetings left us all disheartened - NHS red tape is well renowned.  Another meeting was scheduled and I felt some cake might be welcome.  I made Mary Berry's Lemon Drizzle Traybake and went along with my Tupperware box, a knife and some napkins.

I had COMPLETELY misjudged the occasion.  Unlike other meetings, this was a formal elite gathering in a remote trust office with executive directors and heads of departments all in suits.    They looked aghast at the midwife in denim carrying her cake tin and a dangerous knife.  The Senior Midwife cast a glance that spoke a thousand words - I was a typical midwife, representing the profession badly again, reinforcing the sterotype of a lentil eating do-gooder wearing inappropriate comfortable shoes and clothes.

The meeting began.  I hid the cake tin under the table and tried to regain some sense of equlibrium, resisting the urge to run away and attempting to find some credible insights to disarm their first impressions of me.  However, we were soon swimming in treacle again.  Stalemate.  Getting nowhere.  Our scheduled meeting time was nearly over.  Sarah looked close to tears with frustration.

I took a deep breath and said 'Would anyone like some cake?'  Another disapproving glance from The Senior Midwife.  Oh well, I thought - in for a penny, in for a pound.  'It's lemon drizzle and one of my favourites'.  Frank - the suit from estates - was the first to say yes please.  Then the blonde with kitten heels.  Then they all couldn't get a piece quick enough.

'Look', said someone, enobled by a lemony sugar-rush.  'Let's make this happen'.  10 minutes of brainstorming and bullet pointing was all it took. Afterwards Gill and I took Sarah to lunch, gave her tissues and more cake and  encouraged her to be strong, to 'hold the faith'.

Next week, our brand new purpose-built free-standing midwife-led birth centre opens to the Public.  It is everything we have dreamed of.  Sarah remains convinced it was the lemon drizzle cake that made it happen.

In case you have the chance to change your world through the power of cake, here is the recipe:

Mary Berry's Lemon Drizzle Traybake
Preheat the oven to 160c.  Grease and line a traybake tin.

Mix together for 2 mins with electric mixer:

225g softened butter or margerine
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
275g self-raising flour
4 tbsp milk

Bake for 45 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean. 

Whilst the cake is baking, prepare the drizzle mix:

175g granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins then pour over the drizzle mixture whilst warm.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Rhubarb and Ginger Chutney

When we moved into this house, our good friend and neighbour Simon Webley (an elderly statesman of the village) gave us a Rhubarb plant that had been divided from one in his own magnificient kitchen garden.  The rhubarb has flourised in a reasonably sunny spot despite no attention whatsover (though I think the dog has fertilised it from time to time, it being placed relatively near the back door...)

I harvested some Rhubarb in the early summer and ate it lightly stewed with orange zest for breakfast with oats and yogurt.  Yum.  Today I had a pleasing second harvest of over 4lbs, so am cooking up a large batch of Rhubarb and Ginger chutney.

I share the recipe with you (I got it from an allottment website).

Rhubarb and Ginger Chutney

4 lb rhubarb, washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
6 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
6 large onions, peeled and chopped (I used the processor)
1 head of garlic peeled and chopped with 1 large piece of peeled fresh ginger root (I do these both in the food processor)
3 pints malt vinegar (I used Tesco value for 13p per bottle!)
2lb 4oz demerara sugar (though I didn't have any so I used a mix of half granulated and half dark-brown-soft)
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp curry powder (I used Madras)
2lb 4oz sultanas and/or currants

Mix all the ingredients together in a large preserving pan, bring slowly to the boil and simmer for about 2 hours or until thick. 

Pour into heated sterlised jars and seal.

Leave to mature for 3 months before eating (so make it now and it will be perfect at Christmas!)

It should keep for at least 1 year on the shelf.

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