home made granola

Nutty granola

This is my take on the excellent Jack Monroe’s peanut butter granola recipe. Please visit her blog detailing easy recipes for those on a budget, Cooking on a Bootstrap, and while you’re there pre-order two copies of her new book Tin Can Cook – one for you, and one to donate to your nearest food bank.  I’ve tried to cut down on the sugars and add more nuts and seeds. These are rough estimates of quantities I used. You could be adventurous and make up your own based on what you like. I might try marmalade instead of syrup next time, and mix in dark chocolate chips for a breakfast jaffacake kind of vibe.

  • 30ml walnut oil
  • 65g crunchy peanut butter
  • 300g jumbo oats
  • 50g golden syrup
  • 25g Truvia brown sugar blend (half real sugar, half sweetener)
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 80g raisins or sultanas
  • 80g milled linseed (available at Aldi or Lidl these days)

Measure out the oil, peanut butter, syrup and Truvia into a big microwaveable bowl and nuke for about 30 seconds, stir, then nuke again for 30 seconds.  You want the ingredients to melt together but not get so hot that they bubble.  Meantime, measure out the oats.  When the liquid ingredients have calmed down a bit but are still warm, stir in the oats.  At this point you can also add the linseed and almonds (or you can leave them out until later).  Give it all a good stir so all the oats are coated in the liquid mixture.  Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and spread the oats in an even layer on the paper, patting it down with the back of a spoon.  Put in a pre-heated medium oven (160 degrees C fan oven) and bake for about 15 minutes. The oat mixture should look only lightly toasted. If it’s dark brown, you’ve gone too far!  Leave to cool on the tray, then break it up and mix in the sultanas, plus the almonds and linseed if you kept them out of the mixture at the beginning.  Store in an airtight container and enjoy for breakfast sprinkled on fruit and yogurt, or with milk.

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Christmas cake 2015

IMG_20151122_181718[1]There are hundreds of different recipes out there, but having tried Nigella’s last year I think this is just about the easiest both in terms of shopping for ingredients and in baking it.  This is my take on it. Quantities below are for one small 18cm round or 15cm square cake.  If you double up the mixture this will make a 23cm round or 20cm square cake but will take much longer to cook.  Soak the fruit in any type of aromatic spirit (I used a mixture of Scotch and brandy as that’s what I had available!), or use bourbon if you want to go the full Domestic Goddess route. Make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature before you start mixing – take them out of the fridge the night before. Nigella suggests adding a teaspoon of almond extract but I don’t think it’s necessary, especially if the cake is going to be covered in marzipan before icing. This is quite an easy cake to put together, but you do need to bear in mind that you need to start preparing the ingredients a good 24 hours before you’re ready to bake it.

  • 350g raisins
  • 150g currants
  • 50g glace cherries, cut in half
  • 75g chopped walnuts
  • 200ml whisky, brandy or bourbon
  • 150g butter
  • 90g dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon black treacle
  • 150g plain flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • half teaspoon cinnamon
  • quarter teaspoon ground cloves
  • quarter teaspoon ground ginger

Put the raisins, currants and cherries in a small saucepan and pour over the spirit of your choice.  Bring the mixture to the boil then remoove it from the heat, give it a good stir, then cover it and leave it overnight.

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees C or gas mark 2.  Line your cake tin with a double thickness of greaseproof or baking paper.

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream them together until the sugar granules have disappeared. Then mix in the grated lemon zest. Now add an egg and beat it in well.  Add a spoonful of flour, mix that, then add another egg and beat well.  Now add in the black treacle.  A good tip to get treacle out of the tin is to heat up the spoon over a gas flame fora few seconds, or dunk it in a cup of boiling water, before putting your spoon in the tin.  The heat will help the treacle slide off the spoon more easily.

Mix the flour, spices and ground almonds together in a separate bowl (you really don’t need to sieve flour these days, unless you’re still buying it from a grocer’s shop where they scoop out your flour from a big sack on the floor….).  Add a big spoonful of flour mix followed by a big spoonful of the soaked dried fruit and mix well. Continue like this until all the flour and all the fruit is incorporated.  Then add the chopped walnuts and give the mixture one last stir to distribute the nuts evenly through it.

Put the mixture into your cake tin.  A silicone spatula is a great tool for getting the last scrapings out of the mixing bowl.  Level off the  mixture in the tin as much as you can, then put it in the oven. A small 18cm round cake will take anything between 90 minutes and 2.5 hours to cook, depending on your oven.  A larger 23cm round cake will take about 3 hours, give or take 20 minutes either side. The easiest way to test if your cake is done is to stick a thin metal skewer right into the middle, leave it there for a few seconds, then pull it out. If the skewer has some sticky cake mixture on it, the cake’s not done yet.  If it comes out and looks clean, the cake is baked all the way through.  Take it out of the oven and brush the top with a tablespoonful of brandy or whisky, turn it out of the tin and wrap it up in a double layer of foil (you can keep the baking paper on it at this point).  The next day, take off all the baking paper and rewrap it in fresh baking paper, then put it in an airtight container.

At this point, your cake is ready for feeding.  Every so often,  unrwap your cake,  prod it all over with a skewer and brush over a couple of tablespoons of whisky or brandy, then wrap it up again .

A small cake will need one pack of marzipan to cover it – anything bigger may require two. You should put the marzipan on the cake a few days before you want to put the icing on.  Use a tablespoon of apricot jam, heated up and sieved, to brush over the cake before you put the rolled out marzipan on – it will help to stick the marzipan onto the cake.  Icing?  I cheat and use ready-rolled fondant!

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wild garlic pesto

We have a small patch of wild garlic growing in our bombsite of a garden.  At this time of year the leaves are fresh and tender and make an excellent pesto.

  • 150g wild garlic leaves, washed
  • 150g hard cheese (cheddar, parmesan, or a mixture)
  • 150g nuts (I used a mixture of walnuts, pine nuts and almonds that all needed using up)
  • 100ml olive oil
  • big pinch of salt
  • black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until it’s all amalgamated, but stop before it reaches a completely smooth paste – it’s nicer if there are still recognisable bits of nuts and cheese.

This will keep in the fridge for about a week with a bit of extra olive oil drizzled over the top in a sealed container, or you can freeze it in an ice cube tray.  Use it as you would any type of pesto – stir it into cooked pasta, or with sauteed mushrooms, or use it as a topping for pizza, or swirl it into vegetable soup.

Triple chocolate brownies

triple choc brownie

Morgan’s speciality. This mixture makes about 18 and lasts about as many minutes after they’ve cooled down enough to eat.

  • 250g good quality dark chocolate
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 125g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 100g broken pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 50g white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C or gas mark 3.

Put 3-4 cm water into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over a medium heat.  Break up the chocolate, cut up the butter and put both in a mixing bowl. Put it over the pan of gently simmering water and turn the heat off. Stir occasionally until melted together and smooth. Alternatively, put the broken up chocolate and butter into a microwave-proof bowl and microwave on full power for 10 seconds, take out and stir, then put back in for another 10 seconds, etc. until it’s all melted.  Only 10 seconds at a time, mind, or you could end up with burnt chocolate and nobody wants that.

Meanwhile, break the 3 eggs into another bowl, and pour in the sugar.  Whisk the sugar and eggs together until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture using a rubber spatula to get all the chocolate out of the bowl.  Mix thoroughly together.

Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and mix thoroughly. Stir in the nuts if you’re using them.

Line a baking tin about 20x30cm with a piece of foil or baking paper and pour in the mixture, using a spatula to get the last scrapes out.  Smooth the top of the mixture in the tin.

Put the tin on a shelf in the middle of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.   Don’t cook them for too long – better a bit squidgy than too solid.

Take the tin out of the oven and stand it on a wire rack.  Sprinkle the white chocolate chips over the top while the brownies are still hot, to give them a chance to melt a bit. Leave until cool enough to cut into squares.