Baking from Necessity

Today’s recipe is one which came from a summer school Nico did at Rainbow Montessori, and I believe it was Miss Debbie who made it with him.  I still have the original piece of paper cut and stuck in my recipe book with its picture of a hot oven.  I am very fond of this cake, as were you, so much so that whenever I bought bananas, you would ignore them knowing that I would cave and make the cake.  I hate throwing food away!  Really, guys, it would have been easier just to ask me to make Banana Bread!  

There are a couple of comments on the recipe – you can add a handful of sultanas to the mix (which I didn’t do because Nico didn’t like cooked fruit …. apart from bananas, of course).  The original recipe says plain yoghurt.  I have always used Greek yoghurt since that was what was in the house – I have no idea whether this makes a difference to the taste.  Make sure that the bananas are really ripe – the skins should be quite black – and mash them properly before adding.  Make sure that it’s baking powder and not baking soda – there is a difference.

Otherwise, this freezes well.  Wrap it in foil and put in a tin and it’ll keep for three days.  It’s rather lovely with Nutella spread on it. but be careful because this isn’t a very dry cake and can tear when you do this – I know, practice made perfect for me!

Banana Bread – Ingredients

  • 226 g / 8 oz whole wheat flour, sifted (won’t all go through the sieve because of the flakes of wheat, but do your best.  This should be sifted with the salt and baking powder)
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1 1/2 tspns baking powder
  • 4 tbspns plain yoghurt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 226 g / 8 oz brown sugar (this is particularly good if you use dark brown sugar)
  • 113 g / 4 oz soft butter

Method

Cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly.  If you’re using dark brown sugar, make sure that all the lumps have gone and are creamed in.  Slowly add the egg with a spoonful (not a precise measure!) of the flour mix.  Add the bananas and mix slowly.  Add another spoonful of the flour mixture and mix.  Add half of the yoghurt.  Mix.  Add half the remaining flour mixture and mix.  Add remainder of the yoghurt.  Mix.  Add remainder of flour mixture.  Mix.  If you are adding sultanas, add a handful now.

Put into a buttered loaf tin, and bake at 180 C / 150 F / Gas mark 4 for one hour.

Enjoy!

Simply Delicious

I’ve always enjoyed baking.  I enjoy the rhythm of weighing, mixing and pouring.  I like watching the progress through the oven door, and I especially enjoy putting the results onto the cooling trays.  The sight and smells of a finished batch of, well, almost anything puts me in a good mood.  One of my earliest memories is standing next to Grandma in the kitchen in Otley whilst she rolled out pastry for a pie.  I was given the leftover scraps of pastry and a jar of jam, and I made rather primitive jam tarts.  I’m sure the jam was homemade and the pastry was grubby from my hands, but I know they tasted absolutely wonderful. Today’s recipe is perhaps one of the easiest things one can bake, and was always well received by you lot.  The recipe comes with no warnings, because if you follow the instructions nothing should go wrong.  There are a couple of variations that I have tried, but generally I make them as the recipe says, no frills, tasty results

Flapjacks – Ingredients

  • 100 g / 4 oz butter
  • 75 g / 3 oz golden syrup or honey
  • 75 g / 3 oz soft brown sugar
  • 200 g / 8 oz rolled oats

Method Put butter, syrup/honey and sugar into a saucepan and melt over low heat.  Stir well.  Add oats.  Stir well until oats are mixed in. Pour into a buttered Swiss roll tin (20 cm x 30 cm / 8″ x 12″) and smooth and flatten top with wet knife (stops the mixture sticking to the knife). Bake in oven at 180 C / 350 F for 30 minutes. Leave to cool for about 5 mins and then cut into required number of pieces – I think I do 12. Remove from tin when cold, and store in an airtight tin. You can mess around with this recipe and add, for example, chopped preserved ginger; a handful of sultanas, raisins or currants; and you could add chopped nuts (if George and Ellie aren’t around). Enjoy!

Andrew’s Birthday Treat

My lovely no. 1 son is 32 today.  Hard to believe it’s been so long since I first saw him, born at 16.20 on market day just in time for tea.  He was  the most beautiful baby despite the sticking up hair and all the nurses wanted to take him home.  He was amiable, cheerful and later would sit for ages on Papa’s knee listening to the finer points of combine harvesters and forage harvesters.  He was a text book baby – if the text book said to expect teeth at a certain age, Andrew got them; the only thing he didn’t do by the book, thank heavens, was have the Terrible Twos (but then none of you did – you were no worse at two than at any other age).   Andrew was never particularly difficult – most of my parenting problems with him derived from the fact that we’re so similar, both in looks and in nature, and for nature read ‘temper’.  (By the way, well done, Nico – Andrew tells me that you’ve just realised that he and I do look alike.)  Andrew has often said that the reason he keeps a beard is because it makes it less obvious that we’re related.

Lots of disconnected thoughts are bouncing around in my head, Andrew – how you used to re-wrap a present that you really wanted because you couldn’t quite believe it was yours; your obsession with Saabs; how many times you went to the Railway Museum with Papa because you didn’t want to upset him by saying you’d been too often; Suzy saying that you couldn’t walk yet because, even though you could walk across the room, you couldn’t pick yourself up; exploring the Welsh castles with you; what a wonderful big brother you are to everyone, even to people who aren’t your little brother; your stoicism in facing this shitty illness; and especially I see your face not so long ago when you told me you’d fallen in love. And not only are you my no. 1 but you’re Suzy’s no. 1 too.  We really didn’t know what we were doing, but, darling boy, you were loved a lot, and you still are.

So today’s recipe is a dish that Andrew loved and which sadly hasn’t been made for a long time.  Andrew’s 6th birthday occurred soon after we moved to Hong Kong and he didn’t have any friends for a party (all together now ….   ahhhhhh).  In keeping with tradition, I asked him what he’d like for his birthday tea – he looked at me and smiled and said ‘You know’.  I responded confidently ‘Spaghetti Carbonara’ and he said ‘No, Dad’s spaghetti bolognaise‘.  I was crushed.  Dad thought it was hugely funny.  I have almost got over it.

The recipe came from The Dairy Book of Home Cookery which was published by the Milk Marketing Board, and which you could buy if you ordered enough pints from your milkman.  It’s a wonderful book which has all the basic recipes you could ever need, and this is

Dad’s Spaghetti Bolognaise – Ingredients

(Serves 4)

  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped finely
  • 40 g / 1.5 oz butter
  • 2 tspns olive oil
  • 250 g / 8 oz lean minced beef
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • 100 g / 4 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 300 ml / 1/2 pint water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 150 g / 5 oz can tomato puree
  • 2 level tspns sugar
  • 1/2 level tspn basil or mixed herbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 350 g / 12 oz spaghetti

Method

Gently fry onion in butter and oil until pale gold.  Add beef.  Fry for 3 to 4 minutes until beef is brown and there are no lumps.  Add garlic.

Add mushrooms, bay leaf, water, tomato puree, sugar, basil or mixed herbs, and salt and pepper (to taste) to saucepan with beef mixture.

Bring slowly to boil, stirring.  Cover pan and lower heat.  Simmer for 30 mins.  Uncover and cook for a further 20 to 30 mins (or until about half the liquid has evaporated).  Stir frequently.

Cook spaghetti according to instructions and drain well.

Enjoy!

Nicknames

I was pondering what today’s recipe should be, and my brain bounced to the subject of nicknames (for reasons that will be obvious by the end of the post).  With the surname Moyes and my inability to be quiet for terribly long, my nickname was predictably Noisy Moyesy.  I was never called anything other than Caroline until relatively recently.  Caro was Dad’s pet name for me, and partly because of my user name carolondon on a forum, and partly because people heard Dad call me that, other people started to call me Caro too.

I was determined that Andrew would never be Andy or Drew, but it was me (while working with Scandinavians) who started called him Anders.  I don’t think he minds me calling him this – to be honest I’ve never asked – but otherwise he really hates his name being shortened.  When he was a baby, he had uncontrollable hair which stuck up, and led to his first being called Sid Vicious, and latterly Bonzo (after the chimp in the memorable Ronald Reagan film, Bedtime for Bonzo).  This inevitably got shortened to The Bonz and Bonz, but I grew out of calling him this silly name eventually.  Nicholas, called Nico by his Stede, confused the issue of pet names by changing his own name so often.  Declaring at four that he was no longer Nico, he was Nicholas (something Andrew and I could never remember), and then becoming Nick at a summer camp, later shortened to Nik, but I think it went back to Nick at some point, and then back again.  Frankly, what was the point of thinking of a nickname when he was confusing the issue himself.

Tom was registered as Thomas but was always going to be Tom (except when I’m really cross), but as a wee thing he bore such a remarkable resemblance to Abu the monkey in Disney’s Aladdin that he was called that.  This was shortened to Bu after a boy called Abu Bakr joined his class.  George has always been George, or Georgie – or if I’m feeling particularly sentimental I call him Dod (Scots for George) after the first time Papa saw the twins and said ‘Aye, wee Tam and wee Dod’.

So why was I thinking about nicknames?  Well today’s recipe seems to be a great favourite with everyone.  I originally found the recipe in a Greek cookery book where it was called Garides me Feta, Prawns with Feta.  It is a quick recipe, healthy and tasty, oh and so easy.  There is however one thing to watch – don’t add the feta too early or it melts too much, and then it doesn’t look as pleasant as it could, which is why Matt nicknamed the dish, Spew Prawns, and Spew Prawns it has remained.

Spew Prawns – Ingredients

  • 500 g / 1 lb uncooked prawns, I use the Costco ones and let them defrost in the fridge overnight before using
  • 8 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 packet feta cheese

Method

Put oil in a skillet/frying pan and heat gently.  Add the garlic and gently fry for about a minute.  Add spring onions and fry for another couple of minutes.  Stir and don’t let the onions or the garlic burn.

Add the tin of tomatoes, bay leaf and sugar and bring to the boil.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the prawns and cook until they have all turned pink.  Taste the sauce and season (I tend not to add salt because the feta will be salty).  Just before serving, crumble all the feta on to, stir once and serve immediately.   This is really good with boiled rice.  Don’t leave in the pan too long, or the dish will resemble its nickname.

Enjoy!

One Recipe, Two Outcomes

April 18th would have been Gran’s birthday – 108 today.   I will be eternally grateful that Gran and Pop moved to Northallerton from Kirkcaldy.  I wouldn’t really have known them terribly well if I’d only seen them for three weeks or so every year.  The last year of Pop’s life, as I remember it, was filled with watching village cricket whilst he nursed his 1/2 pint of beer; playing the violin for him, with Gran accompanying; and the best of all, watching War and Peace on their colour television.   For us, it was wonderful having our grandparents, and then grandmother ‘up the road’.  Andrew’s first bit of independence was walking up the road ‘to shoot Gran’.  He hurled himself around the sitting room as he shot her with the Maori stick.  She loved playing with him, but was slightly saddened that she was always the baddie.

There are certain foods I associate with Gran – black bun, mouldy old lemon pudding, cherry cake, Border Tart, Chicken Indiana and meatballs.  I loved Gran’s meatballs – actually, as it turned out, I love all meatballs – kofte, keftedakia, faggots – you name them, I’ve never met a meatball I didn’t like.  The recipe I’m giving you today is probably based on Grandma’s Dutch Meat Roll, as I used to watch her make it, but I like bacon a lot and this is mostly my recipe now as it’s changed over the years.  It works either for Meatballs or for Meat loaf.  Grandma used to put breadcrumbs and bacon rinds on the top of her meat loaf.  I don’t do this any more, partly because I can’t remember the last time I saw bacon with a rind.  I also give you the recipe for the sauces that I make to go with the two dishes.

Meat loaf/Meatballs – Ingredients

  • 500 g / 1 lb minced beef (I use the leanest I can find)
  • 250 g / 1/2 lb minced bacon (this can’t be bought so I mince my own using Nana’s mincing machine – in the middle cupboard in the utility room unless you’ve moved it) – remove as much fat as possible before mincing
  • 1 small onion, chopped roughly
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 75 g / 3 oz home-made breadcrumbs – doesn’t matter what bread they’re from
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • I sometimes add parsley for colour and I have sometimes added cumin cos I felt like it

Method

Put the onion and garlic into a food processor – pulse until finely chopped.  Add the breadcrumbs and parsley or cumin if using.

Move into a bowl and add the beef, bacon and egg.  Mix – you can do this in a food mixer or by hand.  Add a teaspoon of salt and lots of black pepper.  At this point I make a very small patty, fry it, eat it and check the seasoning.  It’s a kind of a ritual, I probably could get the seasoning right first go, but hey!

If making a meat loaf, put mixture into a loaf pan.  If making meat balls, wet your hands and shape into balls about the size of a golf ball, and cover and put in the fridge for at least 20 mins.

For meat loaf, cover the loaf tin with foil, put the loaf tin in a roasting dish and put into the oven at 180 C for about 45 mins.  Juices will come out of the meat (hence the roasting dish underneath) and you should check periodically and pour the juices into a pan (preferably without letting the meatloaf fall out).  After 30 mins, remove the foil.

In the meantime, finely chop a clove of garlic and fry gently in about a teaspoon of olive oil until soft (don’t brown).  Add the juices which you poured off the meatloaf and a tin of chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil.  Simmer.  If you’d like your sauce more meaty, add some water and then use Bisto Gravy Granules!  You could also put in a glass of red wine, but boil it for longer to remove the alcohol.  Serve with Colcannon!

If you’re making Meatballs, take a large frying pan, put in some olive oil and heat.  Add the meatballs and brown on all sides.  Put the browned meatballs into an oven proof dish and keep warm.

Add enough oil to the frying pan to saute a finely chopped garlic clove, and fry for a minute.  Add two tins of chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil.  Pour over the meatballs, cover with foil and put into a 180 C oven (again I would put on a roasting dish because there can be spillages).  Cook for about 35 mins.

Enjoy!

Preparing for Summer

As it appears that spring is truly here and we’re all making plans for the summer, it seems an apposite moment to give you a summer recipe.  Hopefully the vegetables are becoming more varied in the shops and markets and you can move away from root vegetables to the lighter summer offerings.

I must have read about the combination of fresh peas and broad beans somewhere, because otherwise I don’t really know why I decided to create this salad.  Broad beans were never one of my favourite vegetables and neither am I a huge fan of peas (though I love shelling fresh peas and eating them raw).  One day in Waitrose though I saw that both peas and broad beans were in season and I decided to buy some.  I looked through books and magazines to find whatever had originally inspired me but couldn’t find it.  So I made up the salad, and I have tweaked and changed the recipe ever since.  I love the combination of the freshness of the vegetables, herbs and cheese.  It is a fecht to double pod the broad beans but so worth it.  I love the fact that this can only be made while both vegetables are in season and that that season coincides with barbecue weather, because it is wonderful with grilled meats.

If you thought some of my instructions were imprecise before, well we’re going to reach a new low.  Today’s recipe, requested by Jen, is Broad Bean and Pea Salad, and as always you must adjust it to your taste as I made it to mine.

Broad Bean and Pea Salad – Ingredients

  • 1 Waitrose vegetable bag full of fresh peas (I don’t use frozen cos I don’t really like them)
  • 2 Waitrose vegetable bags full of broad beans (ditto)
  • 1 packet feta cheese (or any other strong flavoured goats cheese)
  • Good olive oil
  • Good vinegar – I have used sherry vinegar or balsamic – my favourite is the Vinaigre de Banyuls
  • Black pepper
  • Handful of fresh herbs – I use chives, lovage and winter savory from the garden usually.  Mint, flat leaf parsley and sorrel all work too.

Method

Shell the peas.  Double shell the broad beans – this means taking the beans out of the pods, and then removing the coating around each bean.  This is a messy job requiring nails, but if you don’t remove the coating, it goes opaque and becomes hard.  Put in a pan together, cover with water and bring to the boil.  I cook them for about 10 mins.

Wash the herbs and chop quite finely.  Drain the vegetables and put into a bowl.  Mix in the herbs and move to serving bowl (unless you are very tidy, I wouldn’t recommend putting straight into the serving bowl).  Drizzle about three tablespoons olive oil and one tablespoon vinegar over the vegetables.  Mix gently.

Crumble the feta over the vegetables and grind some pepper on top.  You may want to add salt but I find the feta is salty enough.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

This works wonderfully well with lamb or crusty bread if you fancy a vegetarian snack.

Enjoy!

A Nod to the Irish Side of the Family

Dad remembers Stede making Irish Stew, but it was never one of his favourites, and she used to make soda bread occasionally which he does like.  Ironic really that she made fantastic taramasalata from scratch but Irish food didn’t feature highly in her repertoire.  I spent the summer of 1991 in the UK whilst Andrew was in Germany on a language course.  It was the first time I spent on my own with Bapu and Stede, and whilst Nico bonded with Bapu over slippers, I bonded with Stede in the kitchen.

Stede and I discovered a mutual love of cabbage and she taught me to make today’s recipe, which follows on from yesterday’s Nice Cabbage.  Stede told me that she remembered helping her grandmother to make this and that she preferred it with spring greens (so do I, but I tended to make it for you boys with cabbage because the flavour is milder).  Today’s recipe is of course Colcannon, but I don’t make it exactly like your Stede – 1/2 lb of butter always seemed a bit too much for me!  You could take the girl out of Ireland, but …..

When we returned to London from Hong Kong, Colcannon appeared on many restaurant menus in many various guises.  Whilst some form of green and potatoes are a constant, I suspect that there are as many variations for this as there are Irish.  After Stede’s strokes it became something of a tradition that I would make this for her when they came to eat with us (she loved it with roast pork).   She knew that I had never heard of it until she showed me, and it was ‘our thing’.  I’m glad that I can say that I was shown how to make it by an Irishwoman, and in passing on the recipe to you, I feel a wee bit of your Irish side lives on too.

Colcannon – Ingredients

  • 1 kg / 2 lbs 4 oz floury potatoes, cut into pieces
  • 500 g / 1 lb spring greens / kale / cabbage, shredded finely
  • Single Cream
  • Butter
  • 8 spring onions, finely chopped
  • Salt and black pepper

Method

Put the potatoes into a pan and cover with water.  Place a steamer over this pan and put the cabbage into it.  Cook the potatoes until soft.  Stede liked her cabbage well cooked, but you may like to check that it doesn’t get too mushy.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large pan, and over a very low heat soften the spring onions. Add the cabbage and stir.  Remove from heat.

Mash the potatoes with about 8 tablespoons of cream and 2 ounces of butter.  This is totally up to you – make these potatoes the way you want to eat them.

Combine the cabbage mixture and the potatoes together and season.  I tend not to add salt – Stede did.  I do add lots of black pepper.  Serve immediately.

Serve (preferably with roast pork, crackling and lots of gravy).

If you have leftovers, Stede told me to this is great the next day shaped into patties and fried.  She told me to use lard if I did this, but we never had any leftovers.

Enjoy!