Monthly Archives: December 2013

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Pear and Almond Pudding Cake

I trust you have all had merry Christmases, if indeed you do celebrate it. We are just returned home from two nights at the boyfriend’s parents’ place where we pretty much did nothing bar sit around and eat and drink. Having said that this Christmas has been extremely moderate on the food and drink front, and with only 5 or so Eating Days left until Diet Hell New Year I must work hard to rectify that in the short amount of time left.

I am, rather fancy-pants-ily, typing this on my iPad via a weird wireless connecty keyboardy thing the boyfriend got me which is great and very tech but means I can no longer blame any typos on the autocorrect. Awkward. But I did well on the present front despite being arguably undeserving of much beyond a household costs bill of sorts for having only worked two months out of the last six. The favourite is still to come – a lampshade featuring two blue budgies. Can’t wait. I’m putting it over a silver pineapple lamp base because that’s what the website picture of it had and I’m suggestible, and because I like pineapple, especially on pizza. I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THAT.

We didn’t buy NewHuman a single present for Xmas but were somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of stuff he was given by other people. Have hidden much of it around the house now, either for him to discover or for me to find some years hence, possibly when we move, and go ‘ah shit’ as I’ve done with much of the clothing he’s been gifted. Can’t keep track. The role of wardrobe to his clothing collection is currently played by our dining room table as I can’t be bothered to climb stairs several times to a day when I can just as well change a shitty nappy here downstairs and eat supper on my lap instead of at the table. New chairs and table are en route, however, so the days of the shitty nappy dining table wardrobe are numbered. Sad.

The blog is now just over two years old and there are an untold number of posts hovering about the 200 or so and thus I can’t be bothered to go back and see whether I’ve blogged this particular cake or not. I don’t think I have, hence its appearance today. I’ve been cooking it for several years; it’s hard to get wrong, tastes bloody delicious, and is very simple whilst yet involving heat and sugar, thereby involving a potential for danger and making the whole thing worth admiring.

I’ve never tried this with other fruit but I can see no reason why it’d not be delicious with something like peaches.

20131227-181840.jpg

Gather:-

About 3 pears – peeled, cored and quartered – you never end up using them all and, if me, eat them straight from the pan in the leftover butter-sugar juice. It’s fruit, so you will be basically doing yourself a favour here.
150g unsalted butter (as usual I used salted)
125g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
75g wholemeal self raising flour (I used normal)
75g ground almonds
Generous pinch of cinnamon (I couldn’t find mine, spice cupboard currently like armageddon, so used mixed spice instead. Was fine)

For the pears:-

25g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (I used the caster, it was already out of the cupboard. Seemed sensible).

20131227-182254.jpg

Pears, prepared.

20131227-182315.jpg

Preheat your oven to about 170C or Gas Mark 3. Line the bottom of a well-greased round cake tin, either springform or loose bottomed (ooer, etc) if you can. Something in the region of 20cm diameter would be good.

In a frying pan melt the 25g butter, add the sugar and when bubbling add your pears when it looks like the sugar has dissolved and the butter is bubbling – you can stir it through gently whilst this happens, before the pears go in. Turn them a few times till they start to take on some colour, which should take 5-10 mins or so. Take off the heat and set aside. It’s batter time.

20131227-182529.jpg

In a mixing bowl, with beaters or in your mixer, beat the sugar and butter together till it’s as light and fluffy as the Xmas TV schedule. Beat in one egg at a time with a spoonful of flour. Then by hand mix through the remaining flour, the ground almonds and cinnamon/spice till combined.

20131227-182853.jpg

Spoon the mix into your cake tin and smooth out, then lay on the pears. You know, tidily as you can be bothered to manage. It won’t really matter too much in the end as for the most part they’ll sink into the cake a bit as they cook but if you care about yourself/the world/peace on earth/whichever, you’ll care about doing this bit well.

Pour over the remaining buttery-sugar juice from the frypan.

Into the oven to cook – should take about 40mins or so but just wait till a skewer comes out clean.

20131227-183202.jpg

Dog, full of the festive spirit. It’s unfair to expect her to be enthusiastic about Xmas when she is never enthusiastic about anything else bar food and a run.

20131227-183325.jpg

NewHuman also full of the festive spirit.

(I should admit that he’s gifted us, in this season of giving, sleeping through the night so it’s a bit unfair to represent him as a screaming little shit).

Finished cake below. Eat with clotted cream, is very nice for breakfast.

20131227-183443.jpg

Advertisements

Sausages and Lentils

Evening.

We’re back from decorating the tree at the boyfriend’s parents’ place in South-West London. His dad is a fan of the ‘throw everything remotely decorative on the tree’ approach and it’s been, in the six years I’ve Christmassed with them all, a tradition of sorts to tease the poor Italian man – he of excellent cooking and loafers and immaculate grooming – for his bad taste.  This year we have avoided the red heart-shaped lights, the fraying gold and maroon rope and the plastic candles so all in all I think it’s considered a win.

Predictably I am already LOATHING the thought of January. And February for that matter.  Sadly for me they will consist of winter and dieting, the latter for very good reasons (busted knee, big party happening in April) but it fucking well sucks and there won’t even be any Christmas cheer around in the form of lights and constant drunken public displays of happiness to lighten things.

I’m counting down to New Year but only in terms of ‘days left of eating’. I’m doing my  best to truly fatten up before the slaughter of January. All the more to delight myself with quick results. Doesn’t it go ‘the fatter you are the easier it is to lose weight’, at least at the beginning?

Right, onto the recipe, which I am typing out to the sound of In the Night Garden, currently being enjoyed by NewHuman and the boyfriend, in Italian. Well culture.

A fairly non-diet supper was consumed the other evening, albeit a relatively refined one for me. I kind of morphed my own ideas with a Nigella recipe (oh poor Nigella, whose private decision-making on all aspects of life has become public, imagine the horror if it was you) and added cavolo nero. Delicious.

20131222-182645.jpg

Gather:-

6 sausages of your choosing, I chose nice pork ones. I think I do probably mean pork ones, in general.

Puy lentils, I used a mugful of dry ones

Onion

Lemon

1 clove garlic

Parsley

Some onion chutney, if you can

Chicken or vegetable stock – about 500ml – basically two parts stock to one part lentils

1 large glass red wine

Seasoning

I served mine with cavolo nero, as mentioned.

20131222-182654.jpg

Prepare your cavolo nero thusly – basically take out the stalks.

Wash, chop into strips.

20131222-182706.jpg

Into a pan put the chopped onion with a little splodge of oil and soften for a few minutes. Try not to let it brown.

Stir through lentils you’ve rinsed under some cold water, coating them with the oil and onion, then add the stock. Bring it up to a gentle simmer and stick a lid on, let it cook until done.  Took about 40 mins for me – do NOT salt the lentils innit. Their skin will go tough and, anyway, you shouldn’t need extra salt with the stock being there and all.

20131222-182717.jpg

Whilst the lentils get their cook on prep the rest of the stuff.  See above.

You can totally cook the lentils ahead of time and then just warm through whenever you’re ready to sort the sausages.  You’ll also totally have way too many lentils and, like the boyfriend, choose to take the leftovers to work for lunch. I believe he accompanied his with cottage pie. Eclectic choice.

20131222-182726.jpg

In a big frypan just lightly brown the sausages in some oil, then add some mashed/crushed garlic and the red wine.

Let simmer till the sausages are done. The sausages will look pretty rank for ages, then all of a sudden will start to take on the colour of the wine and things will begin to appear much more palatable. Good.

When they’re cooked remove the sausages and stick in some foil, add the cavolo nero to the red wine juicy stuff and cook over a medium heat for five mins or so – basically until it goes tender.  The cavolo nero will pick up all the juice so the pan will be fairly dry when done.

20131222-182739.jpg

Speaking of dry pans, we left home at about 1115am this morning, the kettle on to boil. Got home at 530pm and the kettle was still on to boil.  Oops.

20131222-182748.jpg

Wimbledon Common was nice. Muddy, but nice.

Right, below is the finished meal. Plop some cavolo nero on the plate, then having stirred a good tablespoon of chutney and a nice squeeze of lemon through the warm lentils, add a nice pile of those on top, then some sausages, then some parsley.  Crack some pepper over the top.

Freaking yum.

20131222-182758.jpg

Beefy Stew for the Short of Time

I like to kid myself, as I push a too-big trolley loaded up with NewHuman and whatever I’ve plundered from the baby aisle to keep him quiet on the journey through the store, that I’m a good grocery shopper, looking out for bargains in these lean times, making sure I’m not duped on 2-for-1 specials that aren’t that special and not buying shiitake mushrooms on a whim because I want to be that kind of cool person who regularly buys shiitake mushrooms.

I’m not. I do like to glance at the receipt post-checkout and gloat if I’ve managed to make a few pounds in savings on deals, and if particularly good I take a photo and send to the boyfriend via text message.  It’s those kind of moments that make what we have together really special.

ANYWAY last week I was cruising the aisles, freezing my tits off in the meat section (it’s so cold that I swear I can feel icicles forming on my lady-moustache) when I saw some cheap stewing beef, I think skirt (??) on special and spent a grand total of £5 on two packs with the aim of making a nice vegetable-heavy stew. See?  I’m a great shopper. I obviously went on to further fill the trolley with luxury ice cream and over-priced shiitake mushrooms but hey, that’s a story for another time.

Stew – I threw this together and chucked in the oven in the very short space of time I was allotted by NewHuman who did me the now-uncommon favour of passing out for 40 minutes in the late afternoon, before rising again, like the Alien, to wreak terror on me, the dog, and whatever foodstuff I placed on his highchair table.

Basically it’s really fast to put together, quite slow to cook but once in the oven, like most stews, you can forget about it till eat-time.

20131216-155136.jpg

I had about 500g of stewing beef, I reckon.

Whatever veg you find in your fridge – I had carrot, parsnip, celery, onion, mushrooms and potatoes.

Tin of chopped tomatoes

Good squeeze of tomato paste

Glass of red wine, sadly for the stew rather than yourself, but please, do imbibe if you please.

Garlic, to taste

Stock – I used chicken as the beef was hiding somewhere in the back of the cupboard and I couldn’t be bothered to search for it. Still can’t, just bought some more on my recent trip to the market instead. Result.

Herbs – I had parsely, rosemary, thyme I think. Tie them in a nice bunch.

Salt and pepper – add this at the end, to your own taste

20131216-155142.jpg

Roughly chop the garlic. As you can see I used quite a bit.

Preheat the oven to about 150C or so, fan oven. Maybe 160C. Can’t remember.

20131216-155151.jpg

In a stew pot brown off the chopped beef in some oil. I used olive.

Add all the veg and stir about a bit.

20131216-155159.jpg

Then add a good dessertspoon or two of plain flour and stir through over the heat. It’ll go gross and gunky.  That’s what you’re after!  The magic of cooking!

20131216-155213.jpg

Then add your stock – I think I made 500ml worth, the wine, tomatoes and tomato paste, and if you think it needs a bit more coverage then top up with water.

Bring up to a simmer and throw the herbs in.

Chuck the lid on and into the oven with it, for at least 2hrs.

20131216-155236.jpg

Dog, with dried mango.

20131216-155258.jpg

Christmas tree.

I wish you could see what I see right now. I see NewHuman with a trail of snot descending gracefully from his right nostril, gurning at the dog (his favourite person in the whole world) and doing massive pooface with requisite sound effects. He’s very special.

Right, if you can be bothered, take the lid off for the final 30mins. I think in the end I did 2hrs lid on and 30mins lid off.  Basically it’s impossible to cook this for too long.

Eat with some crusty bread.

This will make A LOT OF STEW – 6 quite generous portions.

20131216-155306.jpg

Stuff To Do With Discounted Christmas Pudding

Yeah, so I have a confession. I don’t like mince pies. I don’t like mulled wine. I know why I don’t like mince pies (as a kid no-one explained to me that fruit mince doesn’t actually have meat-mince in it, and I couldn’t see the joy in meaty-fruity filling, I’d have made a shit Tudor). No idea why I don’t like mulled wine but I think I can’t do the hot wine thing. NO.

Christmas pudding is kind of in the same vein but I find I can manage it if it’s served with a metric shitload of ice cream. That is, a bit of pudding with my ice cream. My mum, a non-drinker, makes a good (ie: blow your head off) brandy sauce and I like that, too.

All this is leading to why I’m scrabbling around trying to find things to make with a Christmas pudding a few weeks before Christmas, instead of wearily dragging out the leftovers for days after the event. Boyfriend bought one, on my request I must admit, when we were coming home from a weekend in Norfolk – Norfolk is very flat and very pretty, I like it. Anyway it was bought as a contribution to Christmas lunch at his parents’ place but they had already bought two so it was not needed. ALSO boyfriend, in some kind of insane wisdom, or massive cheaparse-ness, bought a discounted version that expires before the 25th. I know that pudding lasts for a millenia but this was uncooked, which doesn’t. I’ve been mulling (ha!) over what to do with it for a couple of weeks and made the following. One is a stuff up, albeit a delicious one, and one is ok. Feel free to avoid or copy at your own risk.

Apologies, too, for the break between posts. I’ve thought a lot about blogging but haven’t. That’s what you get for having a NewHuman with a cold and a boyfriend with a cold and …. no, I’ve no excuse bar laziness. Sorry.

20131207-134154.jpg

For effort one I decided to incorporate cooked pudding into the biscuit base I’ve used previously here (hazelnut and choc) which is a reliably good one.

250g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda

2 eggs – one whole and one yolk only

good dash of nice vanilla

170g brown sugar (I used fine light brown)

75g caster sugar

170g melted butter

Pre-heat your oven to 170C

20131207-134201.jpg

I’m having this kind of day, a flour spilling cack-handed day. An excellent day to go get a haircut, which is where I’m off to next. I will come home looking like Keifer Sutherland from The Lost Boys, no doubt. Festive.

20131207-134209.jpg

Anyway whazz the sugar and butter together, then add the eggs and vanilla and beat till creamy. Add the flour and bicarb and mix through. Should look like the above.

20131207-134213.jpg

Secure your leftover pudding any way you can. I had to cook mine first. It was steaming hot. First mistake. If and when you make anything with your leftover pudding, please make sure it’s nice and cool.

20131207-134218.jpg

Add a good amount of pudding to your cookie mix and drop dessertspoons onto a baking tray, lined with paper.

The batter changed consistency, understandably, the minute I added hot pudding. So, cold pudding. yes?

Into the oven for 15 mins or so.

20131207-134223.jpg

Send the boyfriend and ill NewHuman out into the cold, cold winter air to walk the dog so they won’t be home to witness your tragic baking fail.

20131207-134230.jpg

Not too much of a fail, just a weird consistency for a cookie. They’re kind of cakes in cookie shape. VERY ODD.  I think, actually, that if I did this again I’d use a muffin base and that would work fine. Boyfriend, upstairs in a hot bath (no photo of this) as I write, is chowing one and has texted me to say they are yum. Result.

Next – in the fridge I had some ready  made puff pastry that needed using, so I kind of made a cheaty pain-au-pudding. I guess that’s what it is.  Again, here cold pudding will be your friend.

Heat the oven to 220C or only 200C if you’ve a fan oven.

20131207-134236.jpg

Lay out your nice cold pastry and crumble pudding over it in a nice layer, leaving an inch or so unsullied at the far end.

20131207-134240.jpg

Roll, securing with some nice egg wash.

Well technical, this.

Slice into fairly thin things and lay onto a papered baking tray. Eggwash the living shit out of them.

20131207-134245.jpg

Into the oven for god knows how long. I had the oven on too hot and had to cover them in foil and turn the temp down. Maybe 15-20 mins? Just ensure the pastry is cooked in the middle of the swirl and that the Xmassy bottoms of the things are brown.

20131207-134305.jpg

The dog, in happier, sunnier days.

Below are the finished pain-au-puddings. Further textage from bathing boyfriend indicate that these, too, are tasty.

Mince pies, yuk.

20131207-134311.jpg