Carrot cake

An easy, moist, tasty traybake version of carrot cake. It can also be made in muffin cases but watch the temperature and cooking time if you make them as muffins – they cook quicker and may burn if you’re not careful.

  • 250g carrots
  • 150g butter, unsalted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 200g light soft brown sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • Half a teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 75g roughly chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • For the topping:
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 200g cream cheese – must be full fat!
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Half a teaspoon vanilla extract

You’ll need a 28 x 18cm rectangular tin, or about a dozen muffin cases.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C or gas mark 4.

Line the base of the tin with baking parchment and brush the sides and base of the tin with a little vegetable oil.  Wash the carrots, cut off the tops and grate them.  Put the butter into a pan and heat it gently until it has just melted, or you can melt it in a suitable container in the microwave – 20 seconds at full power, give it a stir, another 20 seconds, etc. etc. until it’s melted but not boiling hot.  Pour the melted butter into a large bowl.  Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them.  Stir in the carrots and sugar to the large bowl, then add the beaten eggs.  Sieve the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder into the mixture and beat with a wooden spoon until it is smooth.  Add the chopped walnuts, and stir in two tablespoons of milk.  Spoon the mixture into the tin. Smooth the top with a spoon.  Tap the tin gently on your work surface to make the mixture level.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  Test by sticking a skewer into the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s ready.  Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack.  While the cake is cooling, sift the icing sugar into a clean bowl. Add the cream cheese, lemon juice and vanilla and beat the mixture well.  You may need more icing sugarif you feel the icing is too sloppy. When the cake is cool, spoon the topping onto it and spread it around. Cut into squares.

TOP TIP: if your tub of baking powder has been open for more than about 6 months, chuck it out and buy some new. It does go off eventually; as it absorbs moisture from the air it loses some of its abililty to make bubbles in your cake mixture.


Seville marmalade

First attempt used the recipe printed on the box of oranges we got from Waitrose (how middle class are we), but I did hack it around a bit as I don’t like huge amounts of “bacon rinds” in my marmalade.  This made 5 1lb jars. If you put all the shreds of orange peel in you’ll probably need 6.

  • 1kg seville oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 2kg granulated sugar

Wash and dry the fruit. Pour 2 litres of cold water into a large pan (it really does have to be the biggest one you’ve got, it WILL boil over…). Squeeze the juice from the oranges and lemons and add to the water.  Scrape out the pips and pith from the oranges with a teaspoon (don’t bother with the lemon) and put it all in a muslin square, tie it up and put in the pan with the juice and the water.  Now attack the orange peel. I cut it as fine as I possibly could, and put in only about two-thirds of the bits. If you like chun

kier marmalade then put the whole lot in.  Add the peel to the pan, bring to the boil and let it all simmer very gently for 1.5 to 2 hours until the peel is very soft.

Squeeze as much juice from the muslin bag into the pan as you can, and put it to one side.  Add the sugar to the pan, bring slowly to the boil so that the sugar dissolves properly, then whack up the heat and boil it rapidly for about 15-20 minutes.

Test it for a set by spooning a small amount onto a cold plate. Leave it for a minute and if the surface is wrinkly when you push it with your finger, then it’s set.  If it’s not wrinkly but just runny, boil the marmalade for another few minutes and try again.

Switch off the heat when setting point is reached, and leave it to settle for 15 minutes. This is just enough time to sterilise your jars and lids. Either run them through the dishwasher, or wash them in hot soapy water, rinse well and put them in a low oven for 5 minutes to dry out.

Skim off any scummy stuff on the surface of the marmalade and throw it away.  Spoon the rest of the marmalade into the jars and seal with a lid. I don’t bother with wax discs – if the marmalade or jam is still pretty hot, just screw on the lid tightly and turn the jar upside down briefly.

Erwtensoep – Dutch pea soup

A real ribsticker. It took Chris a while to crack this one, but he’s got the recipe pretty much perfect and it’s so much better than the stuff in the Unox tins we used to bring back from NL!

  • 500g split peas
  • 500g of bacon spare ribs, or two small ham hocks
  • 100g streaky unsmoked bacon
  • 1 horseshoe-shaped smoked sausage (rookworst) – Mattessons brand is the best known in the UK
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 celeriac
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 small head celery
  • 2 litres water

Rinse the split peas in a sieve.  They don’t need soaking.  Put the 2 litres of water, the peas, the ribs or hamhocks and the bacon into a big pan and bring gently to the boil. Skim off the floating scum, pour off the water, rinse again and put the peas and meat back onto the heat with 2 litres of clean water. Let them simmer gently while you get on with preparing the vegetables. Peel and dice the celeriac and potatotes and the carrot, and peel and chop the onion finely. Add all the vegetables except the celery to the pan and let it all simmer very gently for about 2 hours.

Take the meat out of the pan, remove the rind and bones, and cut the meat into small pieces. Return it to the pan with the finely chopped celery, and the chopped smoked sausage.  Add salt and pepper to taste before serving (it probably won’t need any salt).

This freezes very well, but make sure that you reheat it GENTLY or you’ll get exploding pea soup splashes all over your kitchen.

Eet smakelijk!

Sam’s (almost) foolproof cherry cake

cherry almond cakeA super easy and almost foolproof cake. You could add sultanas and a teaspoonful of mixed spice instead of the cherries, or chocolate chips. No need to rinse sultanas or chocolate chips though.

  • 150g glace cherries
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 175g soft margarine (this is one time where you shouldn’t be tempted to use butter – it’ll taste OK but won’t rise very much)
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 3 eggs, medium

1 loaf tin measuring 20 x 12 x 8cm

Heat your oven to 180 degrees C or gas mark 4.

Cut the cherries into quarters, put them in a sieve and rinse them under warm running water.  Pat them dry on a paper towel.  Don’t cheat on this bit and think you can leave the cherries whole or in halves – if the cherries are any bigger than in quarters, the bits all sink to the bottom of the cake. They may sink anyway, but it’ll still taste great.

Line the loaf tin with baking parchment or greaseproof paper. The best way is to cut a big oblong of paper, then put the loaf tin in the centre and mark where each corner is on the paper. Then make a diagonal cut from each outer corner to the mark.  You should then be able to fit the paper into the tin, folding the corners over each other to make sure the whole tin is covered. Or you could use a ready-made paper loaf tin liner…

Sift the flour into a bowl, add the margarine, sugar and ground almonds.  Break the eggs into a cup and pour them in too.  Breaking them into a cup means you can fish out any stray bits of shell more easily.

Beat the mixture firmly with a wooden spoon, or use a handmixer, until it becomes light and fluffy.  Then GENTLY mix in the pieces of cherry. Don’t use the mixer for this bit!

Scrape the mixture out of the bowl into the lined loaf tin.  Smooth the top to make it level.

Bake the loaf for about 1 1/4 hours, until it rises and turns golden.  Turn it out onto a wire rack to cool.  Cut in slices and eat! It doesn’t keep long, but then it never lasts that long when we make one anyway.