Crazy Cake!

Earlier this evening, I was on the radio with George Hook.  If you’re interested, you can listen here, from 5.52.

 

We were talking about this blog, really, and how it is possible to feed your family if you’re relying completely on benefits. It’s not easy and it takes time, effort, planning and innovation (as you already know). In the course of that conversation, George made reference to earlier generations and how poverty is not a new invention. He’s right, of course, and the chat we had reminded me of a recipe I came across (and tweaked!) a few years ago.

 

I’d invited an old school friend home for coffee one particular morning.  We agreed a time and date three weeks in advance, and the night before she was due to rock up, I was in a lather. I had no money (which isn’t unusual) nor did I have anything to serve with the coffee. Thankfully, I had coffee – and more types of tea than you could shake a stick at – were you in the mood to shake a stick!

 

I couldn’t cancel – I’d been looking forward to seeing my friend for ages, and I was too embarrassed to admit the dire straits I was in. It was then I discovered crazy cake. The crazy thing about this cake is that it is so cheap to prepare! There are no eggs, no butter, very little sugar and a little bit of magic in the mixture.  Apparently, the recipe was produced during WWII in order to stretch rations and still enjoy something sweet.

 

Crazy Cake

200g of Plain Flour

150g of Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda

1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

2 Tablespoons of Cocoa

1 Tablespoon of White Vinegar

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

5 Tablespoons of Oil

250mls of Cold Water

 

Preheat the oven to 180.

Sieve all the dry ingredients straight into an ungreased nine-inch cake tin.

Poke three holes in the mixture.

In the first hole, add the vinegar.

In the second, pour the vanilla extract.

Into the final hole, pour the oil.

Pour the water into the pan and mix it all together.

Pop it in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.

The cake is done when a skewer comes out clean.

 

Cucumber Sorbet

The recent glut of cucumbers had me making soup, lots of Greek salad and – last night – a sorbet.

 

I love sorbets. I love them as a light dessert option, and I especially love them as palate cleansers between courses. That’s what this sorbet was made for. The more savory flavour of cucumber was perfect for palate cleansing duty between our spicy mains and dessert. I added just a bit of mint to complement it, using only three leaves because cucumber is such a delicate flavour and mint can overwhelm other tastes very easily.

 

Cucumber Sorbet

1 1/2 Cucumbers

2 1/2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice

300mls of Water

150g of Sugar

3 Fresh Mint Leaves

Chop the cucumber into small slices.

Mix well with the lemon juice.

Place in a plastic box and freeze overnight.

Add the water and sugar together in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved completely, remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Blitz the syrup, mint leaves and frozen cucumber pieces together until you have a puree.

Transfer to a litre box and pop back in the freezer.

After two hours, remove from the freezer and blitz again.

Return to the freezer and freeze for another two hours before blitzing a final time with a stick blender.

Freeze overnight.

Remove from the freezer and put in the fridge for an hour before serving to defrost enough to eat!

 

 

 

Sweet & Sour Sauce

We had guests for dinner last night and I started preparing for the meal in the middle of the week – just snatching time where and when I had it.

 

The first thing I made was this sweet and sour sauce.  It uses mango puree, and given that I’m such a mango snob, I used tinned Indian mangoes because even tinned) they are far superior to anything you’d get in the supermarket in Ireland.

 

Sweet & Sour Sauce

2-3 Tablespoons of Oil

2 onions

4 Green Chillies

3cms of Ginger

400g Tinned Tomatoes

150mls of Balsamic Vinegar

400mls of Tinned Mangoes

200 mls of water

 

Peel and chop the onions.

Peel the ginger and chop it finely.

Chop the chillies, too.

Fry a little oil in a pan and add the onion, ginger and chillies.

Saute until the onions are golden.

Add the tomatoes, mangoes and vinegar.

Add about 200mls of water and bring the sauce to a simmer.

Continue cooking over a medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat.

 

I used this sauce over baby white aubergines – marinating them for two days before roasting them for 40 minutes.

You could use this sauce for a stir-fry, over meat (if you were so inclined) or bake any other vegetable – like courgettes, regular aubergines or corn on the cob. It’s a lovely, tangy, fruity sauce and one I’ll definitely be making again.

(No photos, unfortunately, cos I forgot to take any before we sat down to eat)

Apple & Raspberry Sponge Cake

I bought some frozen raspberries on Thursday, delighted that the ‘boil notices’ were no longer in evidence. Then I got home and the Irish Examiner informed me that we still need to boil frozen berries prior to consumption in order to avoid contraction of Hepatitis A.

 

I moaned on Twitter about it (as I’m wont to do!) and @wholesomeIE made the valid point that if you cook or bake with them, the process kills any bacteria. So, rather than smoothies, I decided to make a cake.

“Let them eat cake,” I laughed to my girls – prompting a conversation about the French Revolution and the tricoteuse (not least because the idea came to me as I sat knitting).

 

I still had some apples from the bag I got from Susie the other day, so decided to pop them in the cake as well.

The picture below is of the uncooked cake. I haven’t uploaded a picture of the finished product yet, but will rectify that omission later!

 

Raspberry and Apple Cake

 

Raspberry & Apple Sponge Cake

300g Frozen Berries

3 Small Cooking Apples

5 Small Eggs

200g of Sugar

200g of Butter

200g of Flour

2 Tablespoons of Dessicated Coconut

Line an ovenproof dish – I used a 29cm x 20cm Pyrex dish and had just enough cake batter to fill it.

Preheat a fan oven to 180 degrees.

Peel and core the apples.

Cream together the sugar and butter.

Add the eggs, one at a time, adding a tablespoon of Flour after each egg, to avoid curdling.

Add the rest of the flour and mix until you have a thick batter.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared dish.

Scatter the raspberries evenly over the batter.

Spread the rest of batter over the top of the raspberries.

Slice the apples and arrange them evenly on the top of the batter.

Scatter the coconut over the top of the apples.

Top with a sprinkling of sugar (I used grated jaggery, just because I had some and Ishthara, my eldest daughter, loves it).

Pop the dish in the preheated oven and bake for 50 minutes.

The cake is done when a skewer comes out clean.

Chilli Ice Cream

I think chilli in desserts works well; one of my favourite cakes is chocolate chilli cake and I also love a red chilli syrup over vanilla ice-cream. The other night on Twitter, the eternally-glamorous and multi-talented Lorelei King mentioned chilli ice-cream. I said I loved it and Lorelei asked if I’d share a recipe. Well, the truth is that I have eaten chilli ice-cream but I’d never made it. Until now.

 

I bought an egg-separator during the summer and have been looking for any excuse to use it (I know, I know, I’m sad!!) so I figured I’d have a few ‘firsts’ this week. I made chilli ice-cream for the first time, I used my egg separator for the first time and I used eggs in an ice-cream for the first time. Normally, I make ice-cream without eggs because I am very wary of uncooked eggs. Then I had a thought – if I made a custard with the eggs, they wouldn’t be uncooked, so the risk of salmonella would be eliminated. The other first is that I used cups to measure when I was preparing this ice-cream because my jugs were in the dishwasher and the cup measures were in the same drawer as the egg-separator.

 

This ice-cream didn’t freeze, but I have a feeling that’s because I put too much chilli in first pass and used honey to mitigate it; three teaspoons of chilli was too much. Two would have been plenty, so I used four tablespoons of honey to ameliorate the extra teaspoon. I have a feeling that’s why it didn’t freeze. The consistency was akin to that f frozen yogurt and there was still a definite chilli zing. My girls preferred it on its own rather than with the cake I made this evening. This is a recipe I’m looking forward to fiddling it. I think it would be yum with a chocolate sauce, and made with some fresh mint leaves. The next time I try it, I think I’ll make it with equal parts coconut milk and cream.

 

Chilli Ice-Cream II

Chilli Ice Cream

1 Cup of Milk

2 Cups of Cream

2 Tablespoons of Vanilla Paste

Pinch of Salt

3/4 of a Cup of Caster Sugar

5 Egg Yolks

2 Teaspoons of Chilli Powder

 

Whisk together the egg yolks and 1/4 of the sugar together for several minutes until the mixture is stiff, lemon-coloured and forms a ribbon when the whisk is lifted out of the bowl. Leave the mixture to one side.

Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan.

Add the vanilla and stir to mix.

Add the salt.

Add half a cup of the sugar.

 

Stir to combine.

Heat this mixture up over a low heat, just until the steam starts to rise, stirring occasionally so that the sugar is dissolved.

Before making the custard, add a little of the warm milk mixture to the yolks and whisk well, to ensure the yolks don’t curdle.

Pour this yolk-y mixture back into the rest of the milk.

Stir and put the stove back on a low heat, stirring the whole time.

Do not allow the mixture to boil.

When it coats the back of a spoon, it’s done.

Allow the custard to cool, and when it’s cool enough, pop it in the fridge and leave it there for at least two hours.

Once the custard is cooled, add the chilli powder.

I would advise you to be more cautious than I was and add the powder one quarter of a teaspoon at a time.

I used two bowls and a sieve to make sure the powder was evenly distributed. I added the powder into the custard in one bowl and sieved it into the other. Then another pinch of chilli powder and the whole bowl-to-bowl-through-the-sieve routine again. Taste as you go to ensure you don’t overdue the chilli.

I don’t have an ice-cream maker, so I just put it in the freezer overnight. As I said earlier, I added honey and it didn’t freeze. I think that if I’d left the honey out, it would have.  It was still tasty, though. 🙂

 

Curry Puffs

I have very fond memories of curry puffs. My first husband’s parents were from Malaysia and his mother was the best cook I have ever known. She made curry puffs – about 100 each time – and kept them in the freezer for snacking on.

Heated, they are delicious, of a monsoon-y afternoon with a cup of Earl Grey tea, but equally delicious on their own in a lunchbox. I made some this weekend for my girls to have as after-school snacks.  It was a great way to use up some of the potatoes I got in Aldi for 39c per kilo!

Those of you familiar with this Asian delight, will notice that my recipe strays slightly from the curry puffs you’d get in Singapore or Malaysia; I have baked, rather than fried them, and I have omitted the boiled egg. My Kashmira won’t eat boiled eggs, so there was no point in including them.

I made two lots of puffs – one used homemade shortcrust pastry, the other used shop-bought puff pastry (a 375g sheet of pastry, costing €1.29 gave me 10 puffs – more expensive than homemade, for sure, but cheaper than a shop-bought snack and a much quicker option).

Shortcrust pastry is not difficult to make as long as you remember that the best results occur when you use everything as cold as possible (ice the water, put the knife in the fridge to cool it for about an hour before using it, and use butter that hasn’t been out of the fridge for more than 15 minutes). After that, the basic recipe is 2:1 flour:butter and enough water to pull it all together. I use butter rather than margarine because I think it’s healthier and also it’s more flavourful.

To make enough pastry for about 20 curry puffs and an apple tart, use 500g of plain flour, a pinch of salt, 250g of butter and about 250mls of chilled water. Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the butter with a cold knife into small cubes. With clean hands (rinse them in cold water) rub the fat into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. This is probably the hardest part of pastry-making; you want to rub the fat in to make a fine enough mixture, but at the same time, you don’t want to overwork the mixture so the heat of your hands melts the butter. Make a well in the centre of the mixture (just push it out from the middle of the mixture towards the sides of the bowls until you have a hole in the centre). Pour the water in, a little at a time, stirring after each addition. You may not need all the water – it depends on the brand of flour you’re using, which is why I’m advising caution when adding the liquid.

Once you have a smooth ball of dough (you can use your chilled knife or your chilled hands to bring it all together), you’re done. Cover the bowl with a clean tea-towel and put it in the fridge to relax for half an hour before using.

Shortcrust Curry Puffs Shortcrust Pastry

Puffed Curry Puffs puff pastry

Curry Puffs

Your choice of pastry -either shortcrust or puff

500g of Potatoes

125g of Frozen Peas

1 Onion

2 Tablespoons of Curry Powder

25g of Garlic Cloves

25g of Fresh Ginger

3 Long, Whole, Fresh Green Chillies

7 Stalks of Fresh Corinader (Leaves only)

1 Tablespoon of Oil for Frying

Clean, but don’t peel your potatoes and then cut them into small pieces. I got between 16 and 22 pieces per baby potato.

Peel and finely chop the onion.

Bash the garlic and ginger together to make a paste.

Chop the chillies – I use a kitchen scissors because it’s easier.

Put the potatoes in a saucepan and add just enough cold water to cover them.

Bring to the boil.

Turn the heat down and simmer the spuds for about five minutes.

Drain.

Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the onion.

Saute for a few minutes, until the onion starts to soften.

Turn the heat down to medium.

Add the ginger garlic paste, the chillies and the curry powder and continue to cook, for about five more minutes.

Add the potatoes and peas and stir to coat the lot with spices.

Turn the heat down low and cover the pan.

Leave to cook for a further ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Scatter the coriander leaves in and stir to mix thoroughly.

Curry Puff Filling

If using your own pastry, roll it out to about 3mm thickness.

The puff pastry is pre-rolled, so just unfurl it gently and lay it out on a flat, clean, floured surface.

Cut the pastry unto rounds using a cutter about the size of the mouth of a pint glass.

Put a tablespoon of the potato mix in the centre of each pastry round and draw the sides up around the mix until you have half-moon-shaped parcels.

Lightly oil a few ovenproof dishes/baking tins/roasting tins.

Cook the curry puffs in an oven pre-heated to 180 for 325-30 minutes, until golden.

Greek Salad

As promised, I’m sharing my Greek Salad recipe today. This has become a firm favourite in our house about two years ago – it takes about 15 minutes to whip up and is so straight-froward that my children have been making it themselves for at least a year.

This salad is lovely on its own, but if you have it with crusty bread or pasta if you so desire.  The attached picture is an old one, and the cheese used is Halloumi, which we love both for the flavour and the texture. My variation on the Greek theme is the addition of fried whole cumin seeds. With the Super Six in Aldi this week including most of the ingredients in this salad, it’s a no-brainer to make it a few times over the next fortnight. The other ingredients needed for the dish are available in Aldi, too – the Mozzarella is 59c, the olives will set you back 49c per jar, and the chickpeas will cost you  69c.

greek-salad2

Greek Salad

400g  Tin of Chickpeas

90g of Black Olives (drained weight)

250g of Halloumi, sliced (or one 250g ball of Mozzarella)

250g of Cherry Tomatoes

1/4  Cucumber

2  Spring onions

Juice of half a lemon

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

2 Teaspoons of Cumin Seeds

Salt and Pepper to season

 

Trim the spring onions.

If you’re using Halloumi, slice and then pan fry it  on both sides, until it is slightly coloured. Remove from the heat and leave to one side.

Gently fry the cumin seeds for about two minutes until they begin to release their fragrance, but before they start to burn.

Tip the chickpeas from their tin into a sieve or colander, drain and rinse them.

Mix the lemon juice with the olive oil.

Halve the olives.

Halve the tomatoes.

Quarter the slices of cucumber.

If you’re using Mozzarella or Feta, roughly tear or chop it into bite-sized pieces.

Put the chickpeas, olives, cucumber, tomatoes,  and cheese in a bowl.

Snip in the spring onions (both the green and white parts).

Add the cumin seeds.

Drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil mixture over the salad. Toss. Season. Serve.