Banana, ginger and chocolate cake

banana ginger chocolate cake

I realise there’s been a rather manic, end-of-month flurry of activity on the blog but here’s another last minute recipe, which I just had to squeeze in just in time to make the deadline for this month’s Spice Trail challenge.

The theme for March has been ginger and I’ve received a brilliant selection of ginger goodies; the round-up promises to be a real treat.

This last entry from me is a very easy-to-make banana sponge, featuring delightful chunks of chewy, crystallised ginger and dark chocolate chips, lavishly topped with a gorgeously decadent chocolate buttercream. It’s certainly not one for the weight-watchers I’m afraid, but my family made light work of getting through it, and as the cake does contain three bananas there is a little goodness in there as well as the naughty stuff. Life is all about balance, after all.

banana ginger chocolate

Banana, ginger and chocolate cake

Serves 12

120g soft butter, plus a little more for the tins
250g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground ginger
160g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
3 ripe bananas, mashed
75g dark chocolate chips
30 crystallised ginger, chopped into small chunks

For the chocolate buttercream

150g good quality chocolate (dark or milk, you decide)
225g butter, softened
300g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

I also used Dr Oetker chocolate hearts to decorate.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Butter and line a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, vanilla and milk. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture, and then fold in the mashed banana, chocolate chips and crystallised ginger.

Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the chocolate buttercream, melt the chocolate in a microwave on a low setting or in a bowl over a pan of just-simmering water. Leave to cool a little. Beat the butter in another bowl until pale, and then beat in the icing sugar and vanilla. Add the chocolate and mix well.

Spread the chocolate buttercream generously over the cake and, if you like, decorate with chocolate hearts or something similar.

Enjoy!

banana ginger chocolate cake

 

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Sticky toffee pudding

sticky toffee pudding

When I was little, I really enjoyed school dinners. Strange I know, as most people seem to have terrible memories of the stuff dished up in the school canteen. In particular, I enjoyed the puddings, with the exception of school rice pudding which was truly ghastly and has succeeded in putting me off for life. But I did love the old fashioned sponge puddings, served up with thick custard, especially when it was the pink variety.

My children go to a small village school where they only have hot school dinners twice a week as they have to be brought in from a neighbouring school. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I find myself interrogating the kids to find out what they ate that day and am always very jealous when I hear they had a hot pudding with custard.

We didn’t really eat those kinds of puddings at home when I was a child, although occasionally I’d be treated to one of those sponge puddings that came in a large tin. That’s why I really appreciated visits to my grandparents in Lancashire, as my Nana Barbara makes the best puddings ever.

When Nana came down to visit at Christmas, she brought some of her wonderful sticky toffee pudding with her, and I was in seventh heaven. Nana presented me with a large tray of the dark brown sponge cake to go in the freezer, with a jar full of toffee sauce. It’s been such a treat to be able to warm some up in the microwave at the end of a busy day at work and enjoy a bowl of blissful, homemade sticky stodginess.

Nana was kind enough to let me have her recipe, and because I’m a generous soul, I’d like to share it with you too. Enjoy!

sticky toffee pudding

Sticky toffee pudding

Feeds 8

200g dried dates, stoned and chopped
300ml water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g dark brown sugar
80g butter, softened
2 large eggs
vanilla extract
175g self raising flour

For the toffee sauce

150g butter
220ml double cream
150g dark brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Put the chopped dates and water into a saucepan and simmer over a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until gorgeously thick and sticky. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda and leave to cool.

Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl and cream together until pale and fluffy. Break in the eggs and add a few drops of vanilla extract, and beat it all together well. Carefully fold in the flour, followed by the gooey dates.

Grease a baking tin (20cm square) and line with greaseproof paper. Spoon in the mixture and bake for around 40 minutes until the sponge is firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a board and slice into 8 portions.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and then stir in the cream and sugar. Cook gently until the sauce has thickened and turned a glossy, dark caramel colour.

Serve the warm sponge cake in bowls and pour over the toffee sauce. It’s very good as it is but, if you want to push the boat out, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or perhaps a drizzle of cream.

This article was first published in the Wells Journal on 20 March 2014.

The Valentine scribble cake

Valentine Scribble Cake Collage

When I want to give my children a treat, I bake them a big chocolate cake.

When I want to show my children how much I love them, I’ll leave them in charge of decorating said chocolate cake.

valentine scribble cake

Et voila! Here you have our Scribble Valentine Cake! Mia came up with the name.

My daughters don’t think Valentine’s Day should be just for their mummy and daddy. Surely it’s a celebration for the whole family; we all love each other, don’t we? Especially when it usually means there are gifts of chocolates involved.

So this year in the run up to V Day, we decided to make a rather large family chocolate cake.

Yes, I know the end result is garish and gaudy but Mia had a blast being given (almost) free rein to decorate it, and all of us were more than happy to eat it.

scribble cake

It is a simple chocolate sponge sandwich, filled with strawberry jam and whipped cream. We then covered it with a white chocolate icing, which was supposed to be coloured a tasteful shade of pink but ended up a very vibrant red. I’d like to blame the children, but to be honest it was my hand that slipped as the food colouring went in.

Mia then went to town creating her own Jackson Pollock style artwork, dribbling first melted plain and then white chocolate on top of the cake, and of course all over herself and the floor at the same time. For the final piece de resistance, Mia added some lovely Thornton’s Valentine’s chocolate truffle cups to spell out I heart you on top. We also had a bag of Thornton’s strawberry jelly hearts but Mia decided against using those as well at it might be slightly OTT. You see, she can be quite a discerning child really. Jess and Mia gobbled up the jelly hearts once they finished licking the bowl out, natch.

valentine scribble cake

If you’d like to attempt creating your own chocolate action art masterpiece with your little ones, here’s how we made ours. It’s a slight variation on the tried and tested chocolate cake I make for most special occasions in our house.

Valentine scribble cake

3 tbsp cocoa powder
200g caster sugar
200g soft butter
3 eggs
200g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp strawberry jam
200ml double cream

For the icing

100g butter
100g white chocolate, plus another 25g for drizzling
100g icing sugar
2 tbsp double cream
red food colouring
25g plain chocolate
plus any other decorations you care to throw on top

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease and line the base of two 20cm cake tins with baking parchment.

In a cup mix the cocoa with 4 tablespoons of boiling water until smooth.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Take some time with this; keep beating for a good five minutes. Add the cocoa mixture, eggs, flour and baking powder and mix well.

Split the mixture between the two cake tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the oven. The cakes are ready when an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing the cakes from the tins.

To make the icing, place the butter, white chocolate, icing sugar and double cream into a bowl and place over gently simmering water in a pan. Stir until it’s all melted and blended together. Add a few drops of red food colouring – just one or two if you want a pretty shade of pink, or a good glug if you fancy a slightly more vivid hue like ours. If the white chocolate goes a little lumpy or grainy, as it can do sometimes (white chocolate isn’t particularly easy to work with when it’s melted), you can try stirring in a touch more double cream and/or passing the icing through a sieve into another bowl. Allow the icing to cool a little.

Whip the double cream until it forms soft peaks.

Remove the baking parchment from both cakes. Place one a wire rack, over kitchen towel or newspaper to catch the icing drips later. Firstly spread the cake with jam and then with whipped cream. Place the second sponge on top and press down.

Pour the red icing over the top and allow to set slightly. In separate bowls, melt the white chocolate and plain chocolate and then, using a teaspoon, drizzle over the cake in an ‘artistic’ manner. Finally, decorate with any other sweeties or chocolates you fancy.

valentine scribble cake

As this cake is definitely one to make for and with those you love, particularly those of the younger/smaller variety, I am entering it into February’s Family Foodies challenge hosted by Eat Your Veg and myself, and where the theme this month is LOVE.

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Disclosure: Thorntons provided me with complimentary chocolate truffle cups and strawberry jelly hearts for review purposes.

Spiced plum and apple Eton mess

spiced plum and apple eton mess

I enjoy a little serendipity in the kitchen. Those occasions when an accident turns into a wonderful new creation for example.

This pudding came about by accident a few weeks ago when friends came over for Sunday lunch. I intended to make an impressive pavlova but managed to crack the meringue and I was forced to improvise. The broken pieces of meringue, along with the spiced, stewed fruits, were gently folded into whipped cream for a winter version of an Eton mess.

I’ve made it again since – the second time I took photographs for the blog. Instead of folding the ingredients together, I layered them in cocktail glasses for a slightly prettier and more refined dessert.

spiced plums and apples

I like bold flavours and so the plums and apples are quite heavily spiced with star anise, cinnamon and ginger. If you’re not so fond of strong spices, you may wish to hold back a little.

This mess would provide a fantastic finale to a festive meal, perhaps as an alternative to the traditional trifle.

spiced plum and apple eton mess

Spiced plum and apple Eton mess

Serves 6

For the meringue:

3 egg whites
pinch of salt
175g caster sugar
1tsp corn flour
½tsp vanilla extract

For the spiced, stewed fruit

6 red plums, stoned and quartered
4 cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
100ml water
200g caster sugar
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger

500ml double cream
80g icing sugar

Start by making the meringue.

If you don’t have an Aga, preheat the oven to 150ºC / gas mark 2.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until stiff. Gradually whisk in the caster sugar a teaspoonful at a time, and finally whisk in the corn flour and vanilla. Lay a sheet of silicone paper on a baking tray and onto dollop small evenly-sized rounds of the mixture.

If you have an Aga, put the baking tray on the floor of the roasting oven for three to four minutes, until the meringues are slightly coloured. Then move down to the floor of the simmering oven for about an hour until the meringues are firm on the outside but still a little gooey in the middle.

If you’re using a conventional oven, bake for an hour and then turn the oven off. Open the door halfway and allow the meringues to cool to remove to room temperature before removing.

For the stewed fruits, simply place all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir well and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for around 20 minutes, stirring now and again, and skimming off any froth that forms on the surface.

When the fruit is tender and the syrup has thickened, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Pour the double cream into a large bowl and sift into the icing sugar. Whip until the cream forms soft peaks.

When the fruit and meringue are completely cool, you can assemble your desserts. Break the meringues into bite-size pieces. Spoon some stewed fruit into the bottom of your bowls or glasses. Place some meringue on top and them some whipped cream. Continue until you have filled each bowl/glass. Serve chilled.

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This dish is spiced with cinnamon sticks and so I am entering it into this month’s Spice Trail challenge, which I just happen to be  hosting.

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Party Food is the theme this month at Four Seasons Food, hosted by Delicieux and Eat Your Veg, and so I thought these puds would be good for a festive party.

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And lastly as a very British dessert meets a very Oriental spice, I thought I’d also enter this Eton mess into December’s Fabulous Fusion Food challenge hosted by Deena Kakaya.

After Eight ice cream sundaes

Sundae CollageIn the words of Perry and Bing and may other crooners, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Our tree went up at the weekend and suddenly the house feels transformed into a magical, sparkly wonderland. It’s the earliest  we’ve ever put it up. My husband doesn’t think we should have a tree until Christmas Eve, but I’ve been working on him over the years and, having been to the children’s school Christmas fair the day before, it just felt right for it to go up last Saturday.

We also made these After Eight ice cream sundaes at the weekend, which got us into the festive feasting spirit. Wow – they were good. Indulgent, rich and decadent, just like a proper sundae should be. Not of course, something you should eat every day though. But for a Christmas treat, these are just the ticket.

after eight sundae

I must admit, I haven’t eaten After Eight Mints for some years. I associate them with Christmas as a child back in the eighties. I can clearly remember being at my grandparents’ house in Lancashire for Christmas and having them at the end of a meal. As the grown ups were chatting, I pretty much worked my way through the box, and I couldn’t deny how many I’d eaten as the evidence was there in front of me in the form of a pile of those little black envelopes. I’d forgotten how much I like them. And my children seem rather partial to them to. It was a battle keeping the grubby little mitts off them so that I had enough to make this dessert.

The good people at After Eight sent me some of their goodies to experiment with: a box of After Eight Mints and their After Eight Collection, a selection of dark and white mint chocolates. The challenge was to come up with a dessert featuring their chocolate mints. As my children adore mint choc chip ice cream, an ice cream sundae was the obvious choice. 

These sundaes are very simple to make; more of an assembly job really. There are chocolate brownies at the bottom. Feel free to bake your own, but I made things easy on myself by buying some. Next comes a layer of forest fruits, which bring a touch of tartness to the proceedings. You need it to cut through all that rich sweetness. Then there’s the After Eight ice cream. Even if you don’t fancy making the whole sundae, do try making the ice cream – it’s a lovely take on the classic mint choc chip and really couldn’t be easier to create.

after eight ice cream

Melted After Eight Mints combined with a little cream conjure up a wonderful chocolate sauce, which is loving drizzled over the ice cream before topping with whipped cream for that extra level of indulgence.

after eight chocolate sauce

So there you have it – my simple After Eight ice cream sundaes. You’re welcome!

After Eight ice cream sundaes

Makes 4 large sundaes

Half a litre vanilla ice cream
300g box of After Eight Mints
4 chocolate brownies, cut into bite-size chunks
300ml double cream
250g forest fruits (fresh or frozen)
After Eight Collection chocolates for decoration

Place the ice cream in a bowl and allow to soften at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Chop half the After Eight Mints into small pieces. Fold the mint pieces into the ice cream, spoon into a plastic carton, cover and place in the freezer until it has re-frozen.

To make the sauce, place the remaining After Eight Mints and 100ml of the cream in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir until the chocolate mints have completely melted and the sauce has formed. Leave to cool.

Whip the remaining cream in a large bowl until stiff.

Place the brownie pieces at the bottom of four sundae glasses and top with a couple of spoonfuls of the frozen fruits. On top of the fruits place a couple of scoops of the chocolate mint ice cream and drizzle with a generous smothering of chocolate mint sauce. Finally, spoon whipped cream on top of each sundae and decorate with a pretty chocolate from the After Eight Collection. 

Dig in and enjoy to your heart’s content!

Disclosure: this post is sponsored by After Eight who paid me to develop this recipe and provided me with complimentary boxes of After Eight Mints and the After Eight Collection.

As this pudding definitely fits the description of a Festive Treat, I’m entering it into December’s Teatime Treats hosted by What Kate Baked and Lavender & Lovage.

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And these sundaes would be great for parties, so I’m also entering them into Four Seasons Food hosted by  Delicieux and Eat Your Veg.

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My children adored the sundaes, so I reckon they would also make a good entry for December’s Family Foodies challenge over at Eat Your Veg, where the theme is Kids Christmas.

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Cooking with apples

Apple Collage

Katie’s Sausage & Apple Toad in the Hole, Michelle’s Apple Cake and my Nana’s Eve’s Pudding

Our apple season here has been and gone, but for a good couple of months there was quite a frenzy of apple cooking and apple eating in the Bangers & Mash household.

We have a lovely Discovery apple tree in our garden, which gives us a good crop of pretty red apples fairly early in the season. We can normally start picking them from around mid August. Well, most years. Last year we only had six apples from the tree but it was a terrible year for apple growers all over the UK. This year we had a splendid harvest.

apples

Discovery is a wonderfully sweet and crisp apple. The skin is so red it leeches into the white flesh turning it pink. And when you juice them, the apple juice is the most gorgeous shade of pinky-red.

The only problem is Discovery apples don’t store well, so I do find that late summer and early autumn become our apple-obsessed months, with practically every meal or snack featuring apple in some form or another. We’ve been baking, chutneying, pureeing, drying, juicing, freezing and crumbling! But as soon as they’re gone, I miss them terribly.

So when an invitation came from Waitrose to try some of their English apples, it couldn’t have come at a our better time.

Waitrose runs a Grow & Sell campaign with schools, encouraging seven to eleven year olds across the UK to grow their own produce and sell it to Waitrose customers. They are now taking this a step further and encouraging families to grow their own apples at home. So along with my apples I was also delighted to receive a Scrumptious apple tree to plant out in the garden alongside our Discovery tree, which will extend our apple season next year considerably.

Scrumptious is perfect for smaller gardens as you don’t actually need another tree nearby as a pollinating partner to produce a bumper crop of apples. The sweet eating apples are ready to pick in September and the tree is also happy in a large pot so long as it is kept well fed and watered.

With my bumper bag of Coxes apples from Waitrose I decided to try out some recipes from their website, where I found some rather tempting dishes from top food bloggers.

toad in the hole

This Sausage and Apple Toad in the Hole from Katie at Feeding Boys caught my eye straightaway. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that toad in the hole is a bit of a favourite in our house. I’ve never thought to include apple before and it was a big hit with all my family. We made ours with Waitrose pork and herb chipolatas and it’s certainly a dish I’ll be making again.

apple cake

I also baked this yummy Apple Cake from Michelle at Utterly Scrummy. It’s a delicious cake to serve slightly warm with yoghurt or ice cream, or I think it would work equally well as a pudding with lashings of homemade custard. My daughters also appreciated it cold as an after-school snack.

eve's pudding

Eve’s Pudding is always very popular with my clan and so I used the rest of the apples to rustle one up. It’s a recipe my Nana Barbara gave me and it’s a proper, old-fashioned, comforting sort of a pud – what I call a ‘hug in a bowl’ – with sweet, juicy pieces of cooked apple enveloped in a soft, fluffy sponge. Just the kind of pudding I crave when the weather turns nippy. What’s even better is it’s so easy to make.

My Nana’s Eve’s Pudding

450g eating apples, peeled and cored
60g demerara sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 tbsp water
85g butter
85g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
115g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 170°C / gas mark 4.

Slice the apples thinly into a greased ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar, grated lemon rind and water.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg a little at a time, beating well after each addition.

Fold in the flour with a metal spoon and carefully spread the mixture over the apples.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the apples are tender and the sponge mixture cooked. If you’re using an Aga, bake in the bottom of the roasting oven with the cold plate in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes, and then move to the bottom oven for 25-30 minutes.

Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

What are your favourite recipes to cook with apples?

Disclosure: Waitrose provided me with a complimentary apple tree and £10 shopping voucher for this post. All opinions are totally my own.

Tarte tatin


Apple Collage

We’ve been back from France for a week now but to be honest, although my body may be home I think I might have left my brain back in the Dordogne somewhere. It’s taking me a little while to get back into the swing and routine of normal life. Which I guess is the sign of a good holiday.

We ate well in France and so I have returned home both round and brown. You can’t really spend time in France and not take advantage of the good food now, can you? We ate out quite a lot and when we cooked for ourselves we generally kept things pretty simple with gorgeous barbecues and delicious salads. When you’re on holiday, you don’t want to spend all your time over a hot stove – far better to be sat by the pool with a cold beer and a good book. But I can’t go a whole fortnight without wanting to play around in the kitchen. One of our first meals was the fabulous Elizabeth David classic, poulet a l’estragon, and another dish I simply had to try my hand at was the French upside-down favourite, tarte tatin.

I’ve wanted to make tarte tatin for a long time but somehow have never quite got around to it. And as our house was surrounded by apple trees absolutely heaving with fruit, it seemed the obvious thing to make. The only slight problem was that our kitchen wasn’t the best equipped; only after buying all the ingredients did I discover there weren’t any weighing scales or a rolling pin. So I had to improvise with an empty wine bottle and by googling conversions for grammes to tablespoons. But I got there in the end.

When my daughters came in from the pool to see what I was up to, I was clearly having so much fun baking they just had to join in. They created their own little delicacies from the leftover pastry and apple pieces, which they left out that night to feed the fairies.

baking

I used Nigella Lawson’s tarte tatin recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess. It’s not a particularly authentic recipe as it uses Danish pastry, which you’ll need to make up the day before, but I think it worked really well and it got a big thumbs up from the rest of the family, and if you’ve got the right equipment it’s not all that difficult either.

tarte tatin

Tarte tatin

Serves 6 to 8

For the Danish pastry

60ml warm water
125ml milk, at room temperature
1 egg
350g white bread flour
7g sachet of easy-blend yeast
1 tsp salt
25g caster sugar
250g butter, cold, cut into tiny pieces

For the filling

100g butter
150g caster sugar
1kg eating apples, peeled, cored and quartered

A 22cm tarte tatin dish or similar-shaped ovenproof frying pan

Start by making the Danish pastry. Nigella makes hers in a food processor but as I didn’t have one available, I made mine by hand. Pour the water and milk into a jug and add the egg and beat together with a fork.

In a large bowl, place the flour, yeast, salt  and mix together. Add the pieces of butter, mix again and then add the contents of the jug. Use your hands to combine everything, until you have a gooey, lumpy mess. Don’t worry – it’s supposed to look like this. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight.

When you’re ready to make the pastry, remove the goo from the fridge and let it come to room temperature before rolling it out to a square 50cm by 50cm. At this stage I discovered my mixture was still incredibly wet and so I had to add quite a bit more flour before I could handle it. I assume this problem was down to my lack of weighing scales.

Fold the dough square into thirds, like (as Nigella puts it) a business letter. Turn it so that the closed fold is on the left. Roll it out again to a 50cm square, and then repeat this three more times. Cut the pastry in half and wrap in clingfilm, and leave in the fridge for half an hour before using. The tarte tatin only uses one half of the pastry, so use the other half for something else. I used mine for plum Danish pastries – I’ll post the recipe for this soon.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Pop in a baking sheet to warm up.

Put the butter in a tarte tatin dish or a heavy ovenproof frying pan on the hob and melt the butter. Add the sugar. When it starts to foam add the apple quarters and arrange them in a circular pattern, curved side down. Cook on a fairly high heat until the buttery juices turn a beautiful golden colour and the apple begins to soften. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool a little for 10 minutes.

Roll out the pastry into a thin circle slightly larger than the pan. Lay it on top of the apples and tuck the edges down the sides under the apples. Place the pan on the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the caramel syrup is bubbling.

Place a large plate on top of the pan and with great care (and wearing oven gloves) turn the pan and plate upside down. Remove the pan to reveal your beautiful tart. OK, so probably a few pieces of apple will probably have stuck to the pan, but that’s not a problem – just pop them back into place. Slice and serve with a large dollop of creme fraiche.

tarte tatin

As the pastry uses milk, eggs and flour, this tarte tatin is my entry into this month’s Recipes for Life challenge, which I have been hosting on behalf of the charity SWALLOW.

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And as tarte tatin is a classic French summer pud, I’m also entering it into the fabulous new Four Seasons  Food challenge, hosted by Delicieux and Chez Foti, where the theme for August is Summer Puds.

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I am also entering it into Tea Time Treats hosted by The Hedge Combers and Lavender & Lovage, where the theme for January 2014 is Eggs.

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Rhubarb and elderflower fool

Rhubarb Fool Collage

Could there possibly be two more quintessentially English ingredients than rhubarb and elderflower, I wonder? (Now that I’ve written it, even the word quintessentially looks quintessentially English.) For me, these two flavours perfectly conjure up an English summertime and they come together so beautifully in that oh so English of desserts, the anything but foolish fool.

My daughters and I picked bags full of elderflowers from the fields at the back of our house a few weeks back and we had a go at making ourselves elderflower cordial for the first time. I can’t believe I’ve never made it before. It’s the most deliciously refreshing of drinks, especially when mixed with sparkling water, which we took to calling elderflower fizz.

To use up the last of the cordial I whisked it into double cream and the end result was so incredibly fragrant and divinely delicious I could have eaten the whole lot straight from the bowl just as it was. But instead I combined it with a rhubarb puree to create the most heavenly fool imaginable. Yes, this pudding is most definitely an English summer in a glass.

rhubarb and elderflower fool 3

Rhubarb and elderflower fool

Serves 8 to 10

700g rhubarb
juice of 1 orange
80g caster sugar
300ml double cream
4 tbsp elderflower cordial

Chop the rhubarb into 1 inch chunks and place in a saucepan with the orange juice and caster sugar. Place over a low heat and bring the rhubarb to a gentle simmer.

Cook the rhubarb slowly and stir occasionally until the rhubarb is tender and beginning to fall apart. Remove from the heat before it’s completely turned to mush, and leave to cool before placing in the fridge.

Put the double cream and elderflower cordial in a large bowl and whisk until it forms soft peaks. Taste, and whisk in a little more cordial if you think it needs it.

Spoon a little of the chilled rhubarb puree into glasses or bowls, followed by some of the elderflower cream. Continue layering until each glass or bowl is full. Serve as it is or perhaps with a little shortbread biscuit on the side.

rhubarb and elderflower fool

As this is such as superb summer pudding, I’m entering it into August’s Four Season’s Food event hosted by Delicieux and Chez Foti, for which the theme this month is Summer Puds.

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Cherry crumble muffins

cherry crumble muffins

We often make apple crumble muffins in our house. They’re a lovely cross between a cake and a pudding and popular with children and grown ups alike. The other day I thought I’d see what they were like using cherries instead of apples. I was inspired by my friend Sarah who baked us the most gorgeous cherry crumble when we went over to hers recently. I thought the apple crumble muffins were good, but boy! These cherry bad boys are to die for – I’m totally addicted!

cherry crumble muffins

Cherry crumble muffins

Makes 12

For the topping:

50g butter
50g Demerara sugar
30g plain flour
50g rolled oats

For the muffins:

275g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
150g melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp honey

48 cherries, pitted

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

To make the topping, cut the butter into small pieces and put in a mixing bowl with the Demerara sugar, flour and oats. Work them together using your finger tips until it looks like crumble mixture.

For the cake mixture, sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and mix in the sugar. Make a well in the middle, pour in the melted butter, beaten eggs and honey and mix gently.

cherry crumble muffis

Spoon the mixture into paper muffin cases in a 12-hole muffin tray. Place four cherries on top of each muffin and then carefully sprinkle over the crumble topping.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Just perfect for a mid afternoon snack.

cherry crumble muffins

As these scrummy muffins contain oats and honey, and cherries are almost berries (yes, I know they can’t be a berry because they have a stone rather than seeds), I’m entering them into this month’s Recipes for Life challenge. And since I’m hosting it, I’m going to allow cherries in as a wannabe-berry. So there. Sticklers for the rules can swap their cherries for blueberries or blackberries I suppose.

wpid-swallow-recipes-for-life.jpeg

Easy banana yoghurt puds

easy banana yoghurt pud

I found myself with a bunch of over-ripe bananas the other day. Normally the first thing I’d think to make would be banana bread but on a warm June afternoon, following a day spent in a stuffy office, the last thing I wanted to do was bake.

So I came up with this very quick and simple banana yoghurt dessert, with a base of trifle sponge – something else I needed to use up.

trifle sponge

I felt very virtuous knowing I’d avoided filling the food waste bin and we had a scrummy pudding in less than ten minutes. Result.

easy banana yoghurt pud

Easy banana yoghurt puds

Serves 4

6 trifle sponges
apple juice
4 or 5 ripe bananas
500g natural yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp runny honey
blueberries (or any other fresh berries) to garnish

Break up the trifle sponges and divide between four glasses or small bowls. Drizzle over a little apple juice – just enough to soak into the sponges and make them soft.

In a blender, simply whizz up the bananas with the yoghurt, vanilla extract and honey. Pour the banana mixture over the trifle sponges in each glass and garnish with blueberries or whatever berries you might happen to have in the fridge.

It’s so easy it hardly warrants a recipe but you’ve got one anyway!