Cookery

Bløtkake

This, and many other delicious recipes, come from Jane’s new book, Nuts, Growing and Cooking, which she wrote with Sally Hughes. The first time we discovered Bløtkake (pronounced ‘blurt-kak-ir’) was in Tilly Culme-Seymour’s delightful book Island Summers.  It is a Norwegian birthday cake; at least it was the cake Tilly always had and the moment we read about it we knew we wanted it as our birthday cakes too. It is a wonderful concoction of sponge, cream, fruit and marzipan and makes a perfect centrepiece for any tea table, birthday or otherwise. In the book the cake has to make a fraught journey in a small boat from the mainland bakery to the island, this is not something we would recommend, although one Jane made survived a bike ride to Piccadilly.

Island Summers does not include a recipe for the cake but when Tilly came to sign her books she confirmed that our recipe was pretty near her original.

Ready-made marzipan is fine for this cake but use white, rather than golden for authenticity. You can use any combination of berries, according to your inclination and what is in season.

Serves at least 12; this is very rich and substantial cake, a little goes a long way.

            Cake

  •             300 g /10 oz / 3 ½ sticks soft butter
  •             300 g / 10 oz /1 1/3 cup caster (superfine) sugar
  •             6 eggs
  •             300 g / 10 oz / 2 ½ cups self-raising flour
  •             2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

            Filling

  •             300 ml / 10 fl oz / 1 ¼ cups double (heavy) cream
  •             4 drops vanilla extract
  •             3-4 tablespoons apple juice
  •             3-4 tablespoons strawberry jam
  •             100 g / 3 ½ oz / ¾ cup chopped walnuts

            Topping

  •             300 g / 10 oz marzipan
  •             200 g / 7 oz strawberries
  •             200 g/ 7 oz blueberries
  •             icing (confectioners’) sugar, for rolling out and to dust the finished cake

To make the cakes

Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4. Grease 3 x 23 cm / 9 inch loose-bottomed cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment. Even if you have to cook them in batches, it is much easier to cook three separate cakes rather than trying to cut one into three layers. They also rise better.

Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour after each egg. Gently fold in the remaining flour. Pour the mixture into the tins and level out. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. The cake will have pulled away from the sides of the tin and a skewer should come out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few moments. Take the cakes out of the tins, remove the paper and leave on a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the cakes

Once the cakes are totally cooled put the bottom layer onto the plate you wish to use; the cake will be almost impossible to move once you have decorated it. Whip the cream and vanilla extract till it forms reasonably stiff peaks. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of apple juice over the bottom layer of cake; this will ensure it is deliciously moist and gooey. Spread with a layer of ½ the jam and then add a layer of about 1/3 of the cream. Sprinkle half the chopped walnuts on top. Put the next layer of cake on top and repeat the apple juice, jam, cream and walnut layers.

Put the top layer of cake in place and cover the top and sides with a thin layer of cream. This is not the final coating but merely a ‘glue’ to hold the marzipan in place. Roll out the marzipan into a thin circle, large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake. Remember to roll it out on icing (confectioners’) sugar, not flour. Using the rolling pin, drape the marzipan over the cake. Trim any excess; tuck the edges neatly under the cake and smooth over any cracks.

Cut a large cross in the centre and peel back the four triangles of marzipan. You should have sufficient marzipan left to cut away the triangles and replace them with fresh ones. This isn’t vital but it saves cleaning off the cream and cake crumbs from the underside of the triangles which are now exposed. Hull the strawberries, cut into quarters if they are large and pile into the centre with the blueberries, or whatever fruits you are using. Put the remainder around the cake. Dust with icing (confectioners’) sugar and put into the fridge. The cake is best made an hour or so ahead to allow the filling to soak in. It is fine made a day ahead. Keep in the fridge and ideally remove an hour or so before serving.

Jane

 

Milk Chocolate Bramble Cake

Berries jacketI have been hopeless about writing posts this summer, but I do have an excuse; I am writing a book on berries. I am writing it with Sally Hughes and it will be similar to Quinces – a mixture of cookery, gardening and history. This one will also include foraging, as there are so many delicious berries one can collect on country walks or even in city parks and gardens. The book isn’t published till June 2016 but, in the meantime, here is our recipe for Milk Chocolate Bramble Cake.

This is a gentle chocolate cake, rich, but mild in flavour. You need to use dark chocolate in the cake mixture as the flavour of milk chocolate is lost in cooking. For a more intense chocolaty taste, use dark chocolate for the icing too. It is best made with small, foraged blackberries as the large cultivated ones tend to make the cake soggy in parts. Earlier in the summer raspberries are a delicious alternative.Milk Chocolate Bramble Cake 4

Cake

200 g butter

100 dark chocolate

4 eggs

200 g caster sugar

200 self-raising flour, sifted

175 g blackberries

Icing

100 g good quality milk chocolate

140 g butter, softened

140 g icing sugar

2 x 20 cm loose-bottomed cake tins

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4. Grease the tins and line the bases with baking parchment.

To make the cake:

Bring a large pan of water to boil. Break the dark chocolate and put it and the butter into a bowl which will fit inside the pan. Put the bowl into the boiling water, ensuring that the water does not bubble over the rim. Once the butter and chocolate have melted remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Add eggs and sugar to the chocolate mixture and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. This shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.

Reserve a handful of the blackberries for decoration and add the rest to the flour. Stir to coat the berries and then gently fold into the chocolate mixture.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and bake for 30-35 minutes. The top should be nicely risen and a skewer should come out pretty well clean. Remember the berries will make the cake juicy.

Remove from the oven, allow the cakes to cool in the tins until you can handle them, 10 minutes or so, and then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing:

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water as before, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Beat the butter and icing sugar until creamy and then mix in the melted chocolate.

Level the top of one cake, if necessary, and spread half the icing onto it. Put the other cake on top and spread the remaining icing evenly over the top. Decorate with the reserved berries.

Amongst other things, we’ve also made (and eaten) Gooseberry and Elderflower Loaf Cake, Raspberry Lemonade, Raspberry Brownies, Heart Attack Pudding, Tartes aux Myrtilles, Cranberry Scones and Strawberry Butter. Perhaps our next book should be on lettuce leaves. Jane.

A Feast of Vegetables

DSC00114Yotam Ottolenghi has now published five books, of which “Jerusalem” is perhaps the best known and the latest of which, “Plenty More” (Ebury Press, 2014, full cover price £27.00), covers vegetarian cooking. Jonathan Lovekin’s photographs occupy as many full pages of the book as the text itself does and show excellent composition, balance and saturation of the intense colours associated with the best vegetarian food. They contribute enormously to the pleasure of reading and possessing the book as well as helping visualise sometimes exotic ingredients and dishes.

This is a book both practical enough to cook with and sumptuous enough to keep on display, even if not on a coffee table. It is the sort of book you might give or be given as a present, admire for its visual fireworks and relatively trendy subject matter; and then surprise yourself by actually using it, again and again.

Its production was clearly a team effort, from an outfit that now embraces restaurants, provisions and media. Ottolenghi’s acknowledgements to those he works with are both fulsome and full of character, for example he writes “Lucy, who’s in charge of Ottolenghi’s purchasing and of my life in general, isn’t hard to please but can be highly observant”

The author points out in his introduction that the prospect of vegetarian cooking can worry many people, as it once did him. Firstly a lot of the dishes, techniques and possibilities are not commonly known and secondly he, like many people, suffered an initial terror of running out of ideas. No danger of that once you’ve been using this book for a couple of weeks.

Its twelve chapters are respectively headed Tossed (salads), Steamed, Blanched, Simmered, Braised, Grilled, Roasted, Fried, Mashed, Cracked, Baked and Sweetened. They demonstrate the range and variety of dishes that can be prepared without the use of meat or fish and those I have tried are frankly delicious. A tart apple and celeriac salad is made special by the use of quinoa, coriander, thinly sliced red onion, poppy seeds and chilli. A rice dish is boosted by the use of cinnamon stick, lemon and fresh curry leaves; delicious pasta made with tagliatelle incorporates roasted walnuts and lemon juice as well as judicious amounts of cream and grated parmesan.

Given his culinary history and background it is unsurprising that Middle Eastern seasonings, ingredients and techniques play such a major part in this book. As the author points out with dishes like these, quality of ingredients is paramount and freshness and condition essential to a first class result. Some of the ingredients may be difficult to obtain outside large cities (verjuice, panch phoran and shriracha sauce seem to spring to mind) but many can be obtained through Ottolenghi’s website (www.ottolenghi.co.uk/pantry/other-ingredients).

A small caveat is that, while nothing in the book is actually difficult to make, knife skills are definitely required and the amount of chopping, cutting, peeling and dicing is non-trivial. These are dishes to be prepared with concentrated love and eaten with serious pleasure. On the other hand the recipes are sufficiently filling, interesting and varied to ensure that if you so wanted you could eat off them happily for a very long time.

If you can get a competitive price at your local independent bookshop (it is heavily discounted at certain online outlets) please do consider using them to obtain it. As we always point out, you will probably miss them if they go.

Chris

Quince Jam and Jelly

Quince Jelly, jam and Curd

Membrillo may be the way most people come across quinces in shops, but there are other, equally delicious ways of preserving the fruit. Now is the time to take advantage of the last of the quinces and make jam and jelly. This post was meant to go up before Christmas, but jam and jelly make perfect New Year presents too and, if you don’t need to give it away, you can eat it! These recipes come from Quinces, Growing and Cooking (Prospect Books), which I wrote with Sue Dunster.

A Couple of Tips

Making jam and jelly is perfectly simple and incredibly satisfying, but there one or two points to be aware of. Unless specified the instructions below apply to both jam and jelly even though I have referred only to jam.

The type of sugar you use will not alter the taste of the jam but it will affect how it sets. Most importantly you must always use cane sugar rather than beet. Apparently in chemical terms there is no difference between the two, but cane sugar sets much better. If you use beet sugar your preserve will take ages to make and will always be on the runny side. Whether you use granulated or preserving, refined or unrefined is entirely up to you. Preserving or jam sugar is more expensive than granulated and not quite so readily available. The individual grains of sugar are larger and this means they dissolve more easily and, in turn, this speeds up the whole process. It is good if, like us, you are impatient but it doesn’t make better jam. Using refined or unrefined sugar is entirely a matter of personal preference.

The aspect of jam making which tends to worry people most is the setting point. This is the point at which the hot bubbling liquid in your pot will set when it cools. It is crucial not to overcook jam or jelly as they can become solid and rubbery and may taste burnt. The important thing to remember is that you can always cook the jam bit more, you cannot uncook it. With this in mind, always remove the pot from the heat when you test the jam. This way it will immediately stop cooking. It does not matter how many times you do this, you can even recook cold jam if you decide it is not sufficiently set. Testing whether the jam is set is very simple. Before you start put several saucers into the deep freeze. When you think the jam may be ready, remove it from the heat and, using a teaspoon put a small amount of jam onto one of the cold saucers. The jam will rapidly cool. Push your finger through it and if it forms a wrinkly skin it means the jam is ready and will set when cooled in jars. The jam is then ready to pour into jars. If it remains runny replace the pan on the heat and retest using another cold saucer.

When cooking the jam you will probably find a scum forms on the surface. Do not scoop this off while the jam is cooking as you will end up wasting a lot. When making jam you can disperse the scum by adding a little butter. Once the setting point has been reached, put a knob of soft butter into the jam and stir it until it melts. Any scum will miraculously disappear. The amount of butter you need will depend on the quantity of jam you are making and how much scum there is, so start with about ¼ teaspoon and add a little more if necessary. When making jelly you will need to scoop the scum off eventually as it will spoil the clarity of the jelly. Once the jelly has reached setting point allow it to cool slightly and then scoop off all the scum using a clean spoon. It doesn’t look terribly attractive, but tastes just as good and can be put in a separate jar and eaten.

It is important to sterilize your jars properly otherwise you run the risk of the jam going mouldy. It is perfectly okay to remove any mould and eat the jam below but it doesn’t look very good if you give away a jar of proudly made jam and a layer of blue mould has crept in. To sterilise, first preheat the oven to 110C / Gas ¼. Wash the jars and lids thoroughly in hot, soapy water and rinse well. You can run them through a cycle of a dishwasher if you prefer. Put the jars upside down in the oven and leave them until they are totally dry. If you are using metal lids they can go in the oven too. Drying the jars in the oven removes the risk of wiping them with a less than spotless cloth and also means that they are hot and will not crack when you pour the hot jam into them.

When cooking, simmer the fruit slowly to break it up and dissolve the sugar. Then boil it rapidly, as the quicker it reaches the setting point the better the flavour will be.

Quince Jam

This is a wonderful jam which is not too sweet and really thick with fruit.

1kg quinces

1.8ml water

1.250-1.5kg granulated or preserving sugar, according to how sweet you want the jam

Juice of 2 lemons

Small piece of butter

This will make between 3 and 6 jars depending how juicy the quinces are and how runny you like your jam.

Put a couple of saucers in the deep freeze for testing the jam.

Wash the jars and put in a low oven (110C / Gas ¼) to dry.

Wash the quinces, removing all the fluff and cut out any bruised flesh. If the fruits are large, cut them in half as they will cook quicker this way. If there are signs that any of the fruits have been eaten by grubs it is worth cutting them anyway to check the inside. Put in a large steel pan, add the water (which should cover the fruit) and simmer until soft. This should take between ½ to 1 hour depending on the size of your quinces. Check periodically to ensure the pan does not dry out.

Lift the quinces out one at a time, place on a saucer and pull apart with a knife and fork and remove the core. You do not need to worry about the skin as this will break up when you boil the jam. The fruit will fall apart as you remove the cores. Cut the pieces in dice sized chunks.

Return the quinces to the juice in the saucepan and add the sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar and then boil hard until the setting point is reached. (See above.)

Pour into hot, sterilized jars, seal and once the jars are cool, label.

Quince Jelly

One of the joys of this jelly is the beautiful, clear colour, quite apart from the fabulous taste. It can be eaten on toast or scones and is also a delicious accompaniment to chicken, turkey and pheasant.

1kg quinces

Sugar – granulated or preserving

Depending on the fruit 1kg of fruit will give you about 300ml of juice which will, in turn, make just over a jar of jelly.

Wash the quinces and rub off the fluffy down. Remove any bruised or blemished parts and cut all the rest into chunks, you don’t need to worry about peeling or coring.

Put into a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and add enough water so the fruit is just submerged.

Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit has turned to pulp. Stir and squash down periodically to help the fruit break up and to prevent it sticking. This will probably take a couple of hours.

Pour the contents into a jelly bag and allow the juice to drip through into a bowl. It is easiest if you spoon the fruit into the bag first and then pour the liquid over. The whole operation is quite difficult and much simpler with two people, one to hold the bag open and one to pour. Do not squeeze the bag or press the fruit down as this will turn the jelly cloudy. The jelly will take a couple of hours to drip through and can be left overnight.

Put a couple of saucers in the deep freeze to use for testing the jelly.

Wash the jars and put in a low oven (110C / Gas ¼) to dry.

Measure the juice and for every 500ml juice add 400g sugar. Put into a clean saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Once the liquid is clear, turn up the heat and boil hard until setting point is reached. (See above.)

Pour into hot, sterilized jars, seal and once the jars are cool, label.

Jane

 

One of Our Favourite Recipes: Endlessly Adaptable Bread

 Bread Pan

This is a marvellously versatile recipe; you can make a wholemeal loaf, a white cob, or anything in between, with the addition of flavourings, herbs or any of the vegetables in the previous post.

The original recipe comes from Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake. He is the ‘bad cop’ to Mary Berry’s ‘good cop’ on The Great British Bake Off and his books are all brilliant, as are hers. They are easy to follow and have a balance of favourites and more unusual recipes. How to Bake has recipes for a mixture of breads, pastries, puddings, cakes, pies and tarts, all of which are delicious.

Most vegetables are better with strong white flour, rather than wholemeal.

If you want a sweet pumpkin bread, add 2 teaspoons of runny honey instead of the butter. If you are using a purée of vegetables reduce the butter by about half. Always add the water slowly so the dough does not become too sticky.

The flours and yeast that we use are in brackets, but any strong bread flour and quick yeast will work; experiment to find your favourites.

For 1 loaf

  • 400g stoneground strong wholemeal flour (Waitrose Canadian and Very Strong)
  • 100g strong white bread flour (Waitrose Farm: Leckford Estate)
  • 10g salt
  • 10g instant yeast (Dove’s Farm Quick Yeast, this is loose rather than in sachets so you can measure the exact amount)
  • 40g unsalted butter, softened
  • 320ml tepid water
  • Oil for kneading and to grease the bowl

Tip the flours into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other.

Add the butter, three-quarters of the water and any puréed or grated vegetables. Turn the mixture round with your fingers and add the rest of the water a little at a time until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is soft, but not soggy. You may need a little more or less water. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl, folding the edges into the middle. Keep going till you have a rough dough.

Coat the work surface with a little olive oil, then tip the dough onto it and begin to knead. Keep kneading for 10 minutes, by which time the dough should be smooth and silky. Oil a large bowl, put the dough into it and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until it has at least doubled in size, at least 1 hour, possibly 2 or even 3.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper.

Dust the work surface lightly with flour and tip the dough onto it. Knock the air out of the dough by folding it inwards repeatedly until the dough is smooth. Flatten the dough and roll it up into a sausage, then roll this out with your hands until it is about 30cm long. Tie the dough in a knot and place it on the prepared baking tray. Put the tray into a clean plastic bag and leave to prove for about an hour. Large recycling bags are excellent for this, using a wire mesh food cover to keep the plastic off the dough. The dough should have doubled in size and spring back when prodded lightly wit a finger.Wholemeal 1

Meanwhile heat the oven to Gas 7, 200C.

Gently rub flour over the dough and put the loaf into the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, then check it is cooked by tapping the base, it should sound hollow. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Jane

One of Our Favourite Recipes: Potato Bread

You can make bread using an amazing variety of vegetables. Pumpkins will give you a sweet, soft loaf and grated carrot makes a delicious savoury bread. Beetroot will turn your bread pink, spinach, a mottled green, both adding an interesting Veg and Bread  2flavour. Onions, tomatoes, garlic and herbs can all be added. In our opinion though, potato bread is the best of all.

The bread doesn’t taste of potato and is not at all heavy as you might imagine. The mash gives the bread a lovely chewy quality. It is also delicious with a handful of sage, rosemary or thyme mixed into the dough. If there is any left over, it makes very good toast the following day.

This recipe comes from Jane’s book; Kitchen Garden Cookbooks: Potatoes, published by the National Trust.

For 1 loaf

  • 200g cold, mashed potato, without butter or milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 400g strong, white flour (possibly more)
  • 7g easy-blend yeast
  • 300ml tepid water
  • Oil to grease the bowl
  • Herbs (optional)

Mix the potato, flour, salt and yeast together. Add the herbs (if using), keeping a few back for the top of the loaf. Pour in the water bit by bit and knead on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and not too sticky. You may need to add more flour depending on the consistency of the potato.

Shape it into a round and put it in a greased bowl, turning so it is well coated.

Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour or so till it has doubled in size.

Punch it down as hard as you like and knead for another minute.

Grease a large baking tray and then shape the dough into a loaf (long or round, whichever you prefer) straight onto it. Push the remaining herbs into the top. When it cooks the loaf will spread to about double the area. Cover with a tea towel and leave for 30 minutes to rise again.

Preheat the oven to 230C/455F/Gas 8Potato Bread 2

Cook for 10 minutes and then reduce the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6

Cook for another 20 minutes until nicely risen and golden.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Jane

One of Our Favourite Recipes: Black Forest Gateau

Cherries in a Bowl 3When we put the photos onto the website we realised that it looked as if we only made bread, sweets and alcohol. To show what balanced diets we have we thought we should include a cake.

Black Forest Gateau was originally trendy in the 1980s. For many years it was sneered at, along with Prawn Cocktail and Grilled Grapefruit, but is now enjoying a well-deserved revival.

There are two versions, one for when you can get fresh cherries and one for the rest of the year so you can enjoy it at any time. You can use any cherries; morellos have a sharper taste, but compliment the chocolate very well.

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 225g unsalted butter, soft
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 500g cherries, pitted and 60g caster sugar or
  • 400g cherry conserve (use conserve rather than jam as you get more whole fruits)
  • 4 teaspoons kirsch
  • 350ml double cream
  • 40g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 170C / Gas 3

Grease two 20cm cake tins with removable bases. Line the bases with greaseproof paper. (If using a single 23cm tin cook for 50-60 minutes at 180C / Gas 4 and cut into three layers.)

Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa into a large bowl.

Add the butter, sugar and eggs.

Mix roughly with a fork so the flour doesn’t fly everywhere and then mix with an electric hand whisk, moving the whisk so you get as much air as possible into the mixture. You can mix it in a processor but the cake may not rise well as you won’t get as much air into the mixture. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of warm water so the mixture plops off a spoon.

Divide between the two tins and bake in the middle of the oven for about 40 minutes until a skewer comes cleanly out of the centre.

Leave to cool for a minute or two, then run a knife round the edge and turn the cakes out onto a wire rack, removing the paper from the base.

Put the cherries, sugar and kirsch into a small saucepan and simmer until the cherries are soft. Leave to cool. Or mix the conserve with the kirsch.

Whip the cream so it forms soft peaks.Black Forest Gateau  2

Grate the chocolate, using a peeler so you get bigger shavings.

Level the top of one cake and then cut each cake in half horizontally. Spread fruit and cream on each layer and pile them up.

Spread a layer of cream on the top and sprinkle with the chocolate. Jane & Chris