Tag Archives: fruit

Spiced Plum Cake

Autumn is without a doubt my favourite season. I love the colours of nature and I love the clothes and the fact that I can buy new boots (check out my Instagram to see my latest purchases if you’re into that sort of thing!) and most of all, I love the fact that it’s actually pleasant to be in the kitchen without worrying that the combined heat of summer + oven + hob is going to make you keel over. And I also love autumn produce – stoned fruits like plums and greengages are perfect at the end of summer, apples are coming in to season, there’s rhubarb a plenty and it’s generally a great time to get creative with baking.

Which brings me perfectly on to today’s recipe – a spiced plum cake. Now when most Brits hear plum cake, we think of some sort of heavy festive dessert but this is not that. I’m talking about a cake with a fresh fruit base. I reckon you could swap out the fruit for anything that’s in season – peaches or apples for example, but don’t think berries would work as the batter is quite wet and the cooking time is relatively long so you may end up with a mushy base and no one wants a mushy base. You’ll see in this that there’s a row of greengages in the middle – I didn’t have quite enough plums to fill the base so added these in, but actually like the colour difference and the additional tartness this added to the overall cake. However, you can just use plums on their own. 


Spiced Plum Cake

For the base:

  • 500g plums, halved and stoned
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar
  • Butter

For the cake:

  • 175g butter
  • 175g dark muscovado sugar
  • 140g golden syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 7g powdered ginger
  • 5g cinnamon
  • 5 g all spice
  • Pinch of salt

Grease and line a 9″ square baking tin and preheat the oven to 140C or gas mark 4. Spread a good layer of butter onto the greaseproof paper and sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top of that and then place the plums on it so they look nice (this will be the top of your cake). Leave to one side.

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Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a pan and melt together over a low heat, stirring continuously. This should only take a couple of minutes. Leave to cool to one side for about 15 minutes – you don’t want the eggs to cook when they’re added in. In the meantime, weigh out the dry ingredients and beat together the eggs and milk.

Once the butter mix has cooled, pour in the milk and eggs, stirring till it’s all incorporated. Then sift in the flour with the other dry ingredients and fold together till it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter over the plums and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean. Note, the base will be a little caramelly because of the butter and sugar and plums, so don’t worry if the tip of the skewer looks a little bit undercooked – it won’t be.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10-15 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Put something under the wire rack, you may lose a little caramel topping on to your work surface and it’s a bitch to clean off.

We had it with custard (shop bought, sorry) but would be equally lovely with creme fraiche or something else creamy.

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The granola of unemployment (or how I learned to turn off Netflix)

I’ve now officially finished working at my last job and have spent the last four weeks or so officially not working. Which has been awesome, but I am going slightly insane, what with talking to the cat, binge watching truly terrible series on Netflix (so far four seasons of The Vampire Diaries, which is like a rubbish combination of True Blood and Buffy), hanging out with my folks and being incredibly impressed by the quality of cars in the car park when I pick my niece up from her fancy school.

So, in my downtime from all that hard work, I’m spending a lot of time in my kitchen. My 1970s monstrosity of a kitchen, but a kitchen nonetheless. And as it’s (nearly) Christmas, there’s many an aroma of cinnamon and ginger and cloves emanating from within its orange and beige interior. But baking and eating aforementioned baked goods, doesn’t really promote good heart health when the most exercise you get all day is walking from the fridge to the sofa and back again.

From my earlier post, you’ll see that I’ve been on a bit of a juice binge recently but a girl cannot live on juice alone so I’ve been experimenting with granola and crackers.

First up, granola. On paper, I should hate granola – it’s dried fruit and nuts, neither of which makes me salivate. But turns out, coating them in a mix of honey and butter and baking them with oats, seeds and the merest hint of spices and a sprinkling of dark muscovado and then baking till they’re gooey and crunchy at the same time makes them utterly delicious. And it’s incredibly simple too, you just need to decide what you want to add to the oats and seeds.

I’m using US measurements (sorry) but I couldn’t find a good granola recipe to adapt on a UK site. And besides, it is a little trial and error because everyone likes different flavours or more or less crunch so don’t panic if you’re not happy with how this turns out, just try different variants on cooking time or oven heat.

Base ingredients: 

  • 1/2 stick of butter (this is about 57g in metric measurements)
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 2.5 cups of oats – not the quick cook kind but proper old school oats
  • A selection of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, etc etc)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar – I used dark muscovado because I like the treacly taste, but use whatever you have apart from icing sugar
  • Pinch of salt (about half a teaspoon but depending on what fruits you use, it could take more)
  • A selection of ground spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, all work well. Add to your taste, I do about two tsps of cinnamon to half a tsp of ginger and a pinch of cloves

Other ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup of nuts – pecans, almonds, brazils, cashews all work well – I find the taste of walnut a little overpowering but that’s just personal preference
  • 3/4 cup of dried fruit – raisins, cranberries, blueberries, apricots (chopped, obviously), pineapple (I’m stopping there before this becomes a long list of fruit that can be dried- that’d be tedious)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (do this instead of the fruit or half the amounts if you’re doing a combination of fruit and chocolate)

Method

  • Preheat your oven to gas mark 6 or equivalent and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper
  • Melt together the butter and honey over a low heat till its all combined and set aside to cool whilst you mix the dry ingredients
  • Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl including whatever nuts you choose – but don’t add the fruit at this stage
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together – using your hands seems to make it easier to get everything evenly distributed
  • Pour in the honey and butter mix and stir till every oat is coated in butter and honey
  • Spoon the mixture into the baking try and press flat
  • Bake for approximately 15-25 minutes, giving the mix a stir half way through

You’re looking for a glorious golden shade on your oats so keep an eye on them to make sure you’re not going from gloriously golden to ‘burnt toast’ – this can happen quite quickly

  • After you’ve removed the tray from the oven at the end of the cooking time, quickly stir in the dried fruit or chocolate chips of your choice and then press flat again
  • Leave to cool in the tray – after it’s cooled, you should have a crunchy toasty tray full of delicious granola – break into bite sized chunks and store in an airtight jar. I’m gifting this with some crackers for Christmas, so have put into small Kilner jars
  • It should keep fresh for a good couple of weeks like this. It’s perfect as a healthy snack, on yoghurt or as a smoothie topping. Or just with milk for breakfast – it’s terribly versatile

Today I’ve made two batches: the first featured almonds, walnuts, cranberries, raisins and the second was cherries, blueberries, pecans and dessicated coconut. I added the coconut at the first stir (halfway through the baking) so it didn’t get tooooo toasted. The second batch I screwed up a little (hell, we all make mistakes, right?) by using the wrong sized cup to measure oats so the mix is a little chewier than I’d like.

Here they are:

granola: ready for gifting Granola: raisins, cranberries, almonds Granola: blueberries, cherries, coconut

Getting juiced

I’ve never been that good at being healthy. I’ve never found an exercise routine that keeps me motivated and I’ve never been good at eating in moderation. And I’ve got a sweet tooth that would have been delighted if Marie-Antoinette had told me to just eat cake. Bring. It. On.

Over the last four weeks, I’ve been on gardening leave. That’s another story that can only be told five months from now. Prior to that though, I’d think nothing of having a croissant at 9am or a large packet of Minstrels to myself in the afternoon after a gigantic baguette and a packet of cheesy Wotsits for lunch.

However, being on gardening leave has made me realise that my life is far too sedentary to maintain this sort of diet and that I really need to focus on what I’m putting into my body unless I want to buy a forklift truck to move me from sofa to fridge in the future.

I’ve just entered the last year of my 30s which has been a particularly indulgent decade and I’m keenly aware that if I don’t start making some changes now, getting older is not going to be a fun process – and after the year I’ve had, I’m desperate to bring the fun back.

Inspired by a green smoothie a friend made for me when I visited a few weeks ago, I’ve been spending the last few weeks getting healthily juiced. I haven’t completely cut out all the sugars and any Instagram followers will know that I’ve eaten a heck of a lot of cake recently (birthdays innit) but a daily juice or smoothie has helped me feel much more energised and able to take on the world.

Below are a few of my favourite recipes which are easy enough to replicate. I find it peculiar writing ‘recipes’ there as there’s no specific amounts of each – ‘a handful’ or ‘a few’ is about as detailed as it gets. To be honest, don’t really think any of these are particularly mind-blowing, they’re just good to try if you, like me, feel you need to stop eating crap and care about what’s going in to your body.

Pear, kiwi, plum and ginger juice. Recipe exactly as the name. Really simple but utterly delicious and if you do them in the juicer in an order, you end up with a pretty rainbow as per below. Admittedly, slightly sludgy in colour after you stir and pour.

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Cantaloupe melon, celery and ginger. 

I love celery, I like its weird alkaline flavour and slight tang. It’s the perfect foil to a melon that may or may not have been much too ripe because it had been forgotten about in the fruit bowl. Coupled with the ginger, it took away the sweetness and made for a much nicer drink. I used three sticks of celery for a whole melon but use to your own taste.

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Strawberry, banana, raspberry smoothie. 

This was my first smoothie, made from fruit that was about to go off with a dollop of yoghurt added for bulk. And it was possibly my favourite so far. I usually only like bananas as actual bananas (for example, I hate banoffee pie) but they work so well in smoothies and means you don’t have to add honey for sweetness.

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Today’s smoothie, that I’ve yet to make, will include kale, ginger and I’m not sure what else yet. I’m hoping to find inspiration from the gorgeous Leon smoothie recipe book that I got as a birthday present, but would love to hear what you shove in the blender of a morning!