Friday, 30 March 2018

Happy Birthday to You, Squashed Bananas and Stew....

Foodie Friday – Simnel Cake

To mark Easter, Foodie Friday looks at a cake that is made specially in Lent and during Easter time – Simnel Cake.  It originated in the UK a long time ago – at least as early as the Middle Ages.  The most common recipe is based on that developed in Shrewsbury.

As you can see there are 11 marzipan balls on top of the cake – these represent the Apostles (minus Judas for obvious reasons).

The cake is a fruit cake – but a much lighter one than is found in Christmas cakes.

A recipe for the cake is set out below (thanks to The Guardian ) but I haven't made it myself so can only hope it is a good one.

The perfect Simnel cake

75ml milk
¼tsp saffron
175g currants
175g sultanas
4 tbsp brandy, whisky or golden or dark rum
50g glacé cherries, halved
50g whole skinned almonds
175g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
45g ground almonds
½ tsp fine salt
1 tsp mixed spice
180g butter, at room temperature
180g soft, light brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp golden syrup
Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
50g mixed peel, chopped if necessary
Sugar syrup, apricot jam or marmalade, to top

For the marzipan (or use 500g bought marzipan)
200g ground almonds
200g icing sugar, plus extra to dust
Drop of almond essence
1 tsp orange blossom water
1 egg, separated

Heat the oven to 130C, and grease and line an 18-20cm loose-bottomed, high-sided tin, cutting an extra circle for the top of the cake with a small circle cut from the centre to allow it to rise. Warm the milk slightly, add the saffron and set aside to infuse. Soak the dried fruit in the spirits.

Meanwhile, make the marzipan. Put the ground almonds and icing sugar in a mixing bowl or food processor and whisk or whizz together until well combined. Add a dash of almond essence, the orange blossom water and the egg yolk, and mix. Whisk the egg white with a drop of water to loosen, then add just enough to bring the marzipan together in a soft dough. Form into a ball, wrap and chill.
Put the whole almonds on a baking tray and bake in the hot oven until starting to turn golden, then remove and set aside to cool.

Put the flour, baking powder, ground almonds, salt and spices in a large bowl and whisk together to mix. Beat the butter in a food mixer, with electric beaters or a vigorously applied wooden spoon until soft, then beat in the sugar and continue beating until they’re light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as required.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a little of the flour mixture between each addition, followed by the syrup and zest.

Roughly chop the almonds, then add to the mixture along with the cherries, dried fruit, saffront and mixed peel. Spoon half the mixture into the prepared tin and flatten the top. Take about a third of the marzipan and roll out on a lightly icing sugared surface to a circle the size of your tin. Place on top of the mixture, trimming as required, then spoon the rest on top. Place your extra circle of greaseproof paper on top and bake for about 2.5 hours until a skewer poked into the top (not down to the marzipan) comes out clean. Allow to cool.

If using jam or marmalade, heat a few tablespoons gently in a small pan to melt. Remove the cake from the tin and peel off the paper. Roll out the remaining marzipan on a lightly icing-sugared surface and cut a circle about 2cm bigger than the diameter of the cake, then trim to neaten. Brush the top and top of the sides of the cake with jam, marmalade or sugar syrup and lift the marzipan on top, smoothing it down the sides.

Heat the grill to medium-high, or prepare your blowtorch. Put the cake under the grill for a couple of minutes until beginning to brown, keeping an eye on it all the time, then remove. Roll the trimmings of the marzipan into 11 roughly equal-sized balls and stick them around the edge of the cake with a little jam/marmalade/syrup. Put back under the grill briefly to brown, then allow to cool before serving.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Yesterday... what a great song that is...

Need Some Inspiration? Try some Beef and Birthday Foods!

Easy Chocolate Cake

Food on Friday: March had some super Beef dishes and a handful of Birthday Foods I'd like to share with you today.

Gerlinde of Cooking Weekends brought me this fab looking Easy Chocolate Cake

How about this lovely Mongolian Beef by Linda from With A Blast

Mafe or Groundnut Stew by MJs Kitchen

Perfect Salisbury Steak by Countrifried Hicks

Spicy Habanero Beef Sliders by Meatloaf and Melodrama

If you would like to check out more Beef and /or Birthday dishes just head on over to Food on Friday: Beef or Food on Friday: Birthday Foods.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Still Me by JoJo Moyes

Wow!  This is a stand out book made even more remarkable that it is the third about Louisa Clark.

What I loved:

·         Louisa's quirky (and somewhat dorky) personality
·         Being set on the edges of New York high society – a world I can't even imagine
·         The nuanced character of Agnes, who you both despised and pitied
·         The ending – say no more!

A big thank you to Melissa of Chick Lit Central who alerted me to this one.  You can find her review here.  Don't read it if you don't want to know more about the plot!

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Not a bad summary... guess whose birthday it is?

Jambalaya for anyone?

Carole's Chatter: Jambalaya

There are probably many different ways to do a Jambalaya – so apologies if mine isn't authentic.


½ packet of bacon
½ packet of frozen prawns
1 ½ cup of long grain rice
2 cups of chicken stock
2 bell peppers (capsicum)
2 tomatoes
Garlic oil
Chilli oil
Spring onions (scallions)
Zest and juice of half a lemon
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Black pepper – to taste


Heat up some oil in a pan.  I used a mixture of chilli oil, garlic oil and olive oil. While that is heating dice your bell peppers and scallions quite finely and then add them to the pan.  Let them cook gently until they are a bit soft – this is called sweating – which doesn't seem a particularly attractive term!

If you can tolerate onions then half an onion diced would be a fine addition.

While this is softening take out your prawns to let them defrost.
Pre-heat your slow cooker.

When your peppers etc are soft add your bacon cut up into smallish pieces and fry on a little higher heat for say 5 minutes.

Deglaze your pan (ie get the yummy bits off the bottom) by adding your diced tomatoes before transferring everything into the slow cooker.

Add your chicken stock (preferably hot) and your rice.  Season with the paprika, cayenne pepper and black pepper.  Add the zest and juice of the lemon.  Give it a stir and leave it to cook away on low.  Mine only took about 3 hours to absorb all the liquid.

About half an hour before dinner add your defrosted prawns to the mixture and that's it!  As always check for seasoning and put something green on top as a garnish.  I used some spring onion but parsley or dill would be fine too.