Hedgerow crumble with cream

Homemade hedgerow crumble

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Eating this last night made me realise how much I love Autumn and all its bounty.

All you need is apples and blackberries (preferably from the garden, hedgerows, trees, local orchard or PYO – you catch my drift!), stew to make a compote. Top with oaty crumble mix; I like to use muscovado sugar in mine, you need less and the taste is unreal. It’s also unrefined so much better for you! Bake until golden, serve straight from the oven with cream or ice cream. Yum.

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Upside down plum cake

 

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Delicious though they are, plums are one of the most frustrating of fruit; faltering between too hard and over-ripe, with merely a brief window of delicious, succulent, sweet, ripeness.

If you hadn’t guessed, I’m a fan. But often, I buy more than I can eat. In years gone by, I’ve cooked them to make a compote (which is lovely with cinnamon and star anise) to have with cream or yoghurt, but recently I thought ‘I’ve never tried an upside down cake, I wonder if plums would work?’ I’m glad I thought of it, because it works. It really works. Unbelievably delicious warm or cold, with cream, vanilla ice cream or solo…whatever floats your boat!

The best thing about this cake is that it couldn’t be any simpler to make. I used Mary Berry’s all-in-one Victoria sponge recipe, which does what it says on the tin: all ingredients in the bowl, beat with an electric whisk till combined. Perfection! Every time. I used half golden caster and half light muscovado sugar for extra yumminess, and to this I added ground cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, which I think are a perfect match for plums.

You can caramelize the plums in a pan before baking if you like; it will only add to the flavour. But be careful not to over do it, as you want them to hold their shape. I personally didn’t and instead, sprinkled sugar over the bottom of the greased tin before putting the plums in. Whatever you decide, again this part is very simple: all you need to do is slice the plums in half, arrange them cut side down in your cake tin, pour over your cake mix and bake. I promise, it’s worth the (minimal) effort, especially when it comes out looking so lovely!

So, next time you have some plums going spare, why not try this out for size? You might be converted.

Chocolate and raspberry puds

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This is a dessert I go back to time and time again when I want to make something delicious and impressive looking, but is easy to prepare and not particularly time consuming i.e. my kinda cooking. I really like making these for friends, as they’re always surprised when I tell them just how easy these delights are to throw together.

I’m also on a secret mission to demystify food and cooking.  It doesn’t need to be complex or fancy to taste and look good. Anybody can do it – and in my view should be able to – cooking and understanding food is a life-skill which has been continually eroded in recent times. Anyway, I digress. Considering how luxurious this dessert looks and feels when you taste it, you really don’t need to spend that much to make it – bonus!

I think my favourite thing about these little puds is the combination of rich, oozy chocolate in the middle plus the almost jam-like raspberries in the bottom. It’s both incredibly rich yet palate cleansing at the same time. It’s kind of a hybrid between a fondant and a soufflé; to be honest, it doesn’t matter what it is when it tastes that bloody good.

So, if you need a stress-free dessert for a dinner party or you just fancy a treat one night, then why not try knocking these up? Let me know how you get on or if you throw together any exciting flavour combinations.

Ingredients (makes 6 ramekins/small pots worth)

200g dark chocolate, melted
60g unsalted butter plus extra to grease the ramekins
3 eggs, separated
100g golden caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Vanilla essence
Orange zest (optional)
Raspberries
Cocoa powder for dusting the ramekins
Cream to serve

Method

1) Preheat your oven to 180 (gas mark 5)

2) Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water (make sure it doesn’t boil or touch the bottom of the bowl)

3) When melted, take off the heat and stir through the butter – I would add my flavourings at this point e.g. salt, vanilla, orange, as the residual heat will bring out the flavour

4) Separate your eggs into two bowls

5) Whisk up the yolks with the sugar until light and fluffy

6) Using an electric hand whisk (it’s quicker and easier!!!) beat the whites until firm, enough so they hold but not as firm as you would for meringue

7) When the chocolate is cooled, pour in the yolk and sugar mixture and stir through

8) Next, fold in the whites until combined and you have a nice smooth thick mixture – be careful not to knock out the air so use a plastic or silicon spatula or metal spoon and don’t beat it once the whites are mixed in

9) Butter your ramekins then put a bit of cocoa powder in each one and tap it round to cover the whole dish – this gives it something to cling on to as it rises

10) Place some raspberries in the bottom of each dish – I completely cover the bottom so about 6-8 raspberries

11) Spoon the mixture on top then bake for about 15 minutes

12) The puds should rise up quite a lot, be cracked on the top but gooey in the middle – serve with loads of cream or ice cream…or whatever you prefer! YUM.

Mary Berry’s banana loaf

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Bananas can be divisive: like marmite a lot of people either love them or hate them. I am one of those strange people who sits somewhere in the middle; in other words I’m fussy. I’ll eat a banana if it’s firm, but if I come across even one patch of bruising I instantly feel nauseous; cue Mary Berry’s foolproof banana loaf recipe. The perfect solution for all those squidgy bananas sitting in your fruit bowl (or you could try my spiced pancakes)!

I used to be skeptical of banana cake, put off by fake banana taste put into yoghurts etc. but a few years ago I made my first loaf and was instantly converted. Since then I’ve tried countless recipes; some have been too dry, banana-y, bland, dense…the list goes on. But, this recipe from Mary Berry’s Simple Cakes (p74) is unbelievably easy and comes out perfect every time.

I personally like a bit of spice in my banana loaf so I add cinnamon and mixed spice to my batter. It is also delicious served with some caramelised / roasted bananas and cream cheese frosting (but that’s a real treat). I also think it would work very well with dark rum, dark chocolate chips in the cake or ganache on the top. Ingredients and method below, happy baking!

Ingredients

4oz (100g) softened butter
6oz (175g) golden caster sugar – you could use light muscovado which I think would work really well!
2 ripe mashed bananas
2 eggs
8oz (225g) self-raising flour
2tbsp milk
1tsp baking powder
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp mixed spice

Method

1)   Preheat the oven to 180 or gas mark 4
2)   Grease and line a 9lb loaf tin (standard size) – I used butter and flour, you could use greaseproof or baking paper
3)   Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl
4)   Using an electric hand whisk, beat for approximately two minutes until all the ingredients are combined in a smooth batter

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You should end up with a mix that looks like this…
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5)   Pour the mixture into your loaf tin and smooth out as evenly as possible
6)   Put in the oven and bake for 50 – 60 minutes
7)   Check cake with a skewer, cocktail stick or a bundt cake thermometer – if it comes out clean your cake is done.
8)   Turn out onto a cooling rack and eat when it is cooled.
Tip: You can check halfway through and cover loosely with a piece of foil if the cake is colouring too quickly – don’t worry it won’t collapse!