March 11th, 2011

dick, food

Very Easy Fruit and Nut Cake

A deliciously moist semi-rich cake that will keep for a couple of months if wrapped in foil and stored in a sealed cake tin. It needs very little equipment to make, and quantities needn't be exact; it's simple enough for the kids to make it with a little supervision. Good for everyday tea-times, or you can feed it with booze and then ice it as a basic Christmas cake.

This cake was much enjoyed by Justin's workmates when I baked it a few weeks ago.

350 g sultanas or other dried fruit
175 g light brown sugar
125 g butter or margarine
50 g walnuts or other nuts if preferred, chopped
3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
pinch salt
225 ml water

2 large eggs

150 g plain flour
150 g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to moderate (Gas 4, 180 C, 350 F). Grease and line a deep 8-inch round cake tin.

Put everything except the flour and the eggs into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature - put the pan into a bowl of cold water if you're in a hurry! If you don't cool the mix, the eggs will cook too quickly and spoil the rising of the cake.

Beat the eggs until pale and foamy.

Add the flour to the pan and stir to incorporate thoroughly. Fold in the eggs. Pour the cake mix into the cake tin.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 75 to 90 minutes until a metal skewer comes out clean. If the top of the cake browns too quickly, cover it with baking foil to prevent scorching. Remove the cake from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Easy caramelised onion and carrot chutney

This recipe happened because of my friend Sue, who is also a volunteer at Willow View. She was enthusing to me about a sandwich that she'd had for lunch a few days previously which contained a caramelised onion and carrot chutney.

I couldn't find a recipe which quite matched what she remembered, but by dint of creatively combining a couple of recipes I already had stored, and using a bit of inspiration, I came up with this chutney. I haven't given it to Sue yet (I've only just finished making it!), but I hope that she'll like it.

The only bit of the recipe which may at first sight seem forbidding is the caramelising of the onion. It's a lot easier than you might think! Just make sure that the onion is sliced as thinly as possible; that you fry it on as low a heat as you can; and that you stir it often enough that it goes a deep golden brown without actually burning. If you're not feeling confident, you can always try caramelising an onion as a stand-alone task; it'll keep in the refrigerator (I'd recommend in a sealed container) for a few days, and it makes a great topping for burgers or sandwiches. Anyway: on with the show...

500 g carrots
1 large cooking onion
1 large cooking apple
175 g sultanas or golden raisins
350 g light brown sugar
300 ml red wine vinegar
2 tsp mixed spice or garam masala
2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
2 tsp salt
olive oil

Peel the onion and slice it very thinly. Fry the onion slices slowly on a very low heat in a little olive oil until they have caramelised, which will take about half an hour. Transfer the caramelised onions to a heavy saucepan, and use a little of the vinegar to deglaze the frying pan; add the deglazings to the saucepan.

Clean the carrots and 'top and tail' them. There is no need to peel them. Grate them coarsely into a microwaveable bowl.

Peel and core the apple. Chop it roughly and add it to the carrots. Microwave on medium for ten minutes or so until the apple chunks are soft. If you don't have a microwave, don't worry; using it just shortens the cooking time.

Add the carrots and apple to the saucepan with the sugar, salt, spices and vinegar. Cover and simmer on a very low heat (the chutney should just be bubbling) for an hour, stirring occasionally. By this time the apple chunks should have disintegrated, if you didn't microwave them; if not, simmer the chutney a little longer until they do.

Add the sultanas or raisins and simmer uncovered for another fifteen minutes, stirring from time to time. You may wish to add more spices with the sultanas if you want a tangier chutney.

Remove from heat, and carefully (hot!) spoon the chutney into warmed screw-top glass jars.

Makes about 4 medium-sized jars of chutney.