Jewelled Persian rice with pomegranates, walnuts & parsley

jewelled persian rice3

Don’t you just love pomegranate seeds? I reckon you could scatter a handful on practically any old dish and it would be transformed into something quite magical. Or is that just me?

It’s clear to see why the beautiful pomegranate is one of the possible contenders for the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. I’d have been tempted.

This Persian jewelled rice however is as far removed from just any old dish as you can get. It’s a wonderfully light and fragrant taste of the Middle East, incredibly easy to prepare and looks a million dollars. Or should that be rial?

As well as pomegranate, it features juicy dried cranberries, walnuts, orange zest, flat leaf parsley and is flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, saffron and garlic. This fluffy, fruity, delicately spiced rice makes a perfect light lunch served just as it is or as a delicious accompaniment to meat or fish. I also plan to take some on our next summer picnic. Continue reading “Jewelled Persian rice with pomegranates, walnuts & parsley”

A squidgy malt loaf for Mothering Sunday

malt loaf

Last year I featured on the blog some pretty little pistachio scones for Mothering Sunday. Only problem was my own Mum was at home in Spain at the time, so she didn’t actually get to sample them until she got around to baking a batch for herself from my recipe.

When Mum was over from Spain last weekend, I baked a super squidgy malt loaf which she really, really enjoyed, and so it feels appropriate this is the recipe I post this year as my Mother’s Day offering. One I’ve actually managed to bake for my own mother.

Malt loaf was always a favourite when I was a kid. Never homemade of course but the variety made by that well-known brand in the bright yellow packaging. My other favourites as a kid in the eighties included that uber-sweet Jamaica ginger cake and those sponge puddings in a tin. As you can see, not a lot of baking went on in our house. Both my Mum and I discovered the joys of baking later in life…

I found myself reminiscing about malt loaf a few weeks ago, wondering how a homemade version would compare to shop-bought. Sometimes there’s no point messing with something you already love. But I figured with malt loaf there was potential, and it turns out I was right. You can add loads more fruit to a malt loaf you bake yourself (I majored with big, fat pieces of gooey dried fig but you can go with whatever you fancy) and you can up the sticky-squidgy levels with lashings of malt extract and treacle. The children ate theirs as it came, but Mum and I enjoyed ours with a thick spread of butter. Heavenly.

malt loaf2

Squidgy malt loaf

sunflower oil, for greasing the tin
75ml hot black tea – I used Redbush tea
90g malt extract, plus a little extra for the glaze
20g black treacle
25g demerara sugar
50g sultanas
50 dried figs, chopped into small pieces
25g dried cranberries
25g dried blueberries
1 egg, beaten
125g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2.

Grease and line a 450g/1lb loaf tin with baking paper.

In a large bowl, mix the hot tea with the malt extract, black treacle, demerara sugar, sultanas, figs, cranberries and blueberries. Next add the egg and combine well.

Add the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and mix thoroughly.

Pour into the loaf tin and bake for around 50 minutes until fairly firm and slightly risen.

Leave to cool a little on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then brush the top with a little more malt extract. Then leave to cool completely before removing from the tin.

Store in an airtight container for up to five days. The malt loaf will get progressively stickier and squidgier. If it lasts that long before getting gobbled up.

Sausage, cranberry and apple plait

Here is another entry for Action for Children’s Festive Food for a Fiver contest – my very easy sausage, cranberry and apple plait. Costing around £5.70 to make and feeding a family of six, this tasty dish works out at only 95p a head; even less if you were to make your own pastry from scratch.

The charity Action for Children is asking people to support their emergency appeal: No child should wish for food this Christmas.

As more families are finding it increasingly difficult to put regular meals on the table, they’d like people to put their creativity to work for a good cause and learn new cooking and money management skills from others, by sharing frugal recipes ideas (less than £1.25 a head) on Facebook and Twitter. The two best recipes will be rewarded with a lovely family cookbook, full of many useful tips, kindly provided by Giraffe Restaurant.

Visit the Action for Children website for more details on how you can get involved.

Sausage, cranberry and apple plait

Filled with sausage meat, this plait is essentially a big, posh sausage roll but much yummier. The cranberries and apple provide those lovely festive flavours. You can also do a sweet version by switching the sausage for marzipan or maybe mincemeat.

4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
knob of butter
50g dried cranberries
320g ready rolled puff pastry
6 pork sausages
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5.

Put the apples in a saucepan with the knob of butter and cook gently until they begin to soften. Stir in the cranberries and cook for a few minutes. Then leave to cool.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment and lay the puff pastry on top.

Slice open the sausage skins and squeeze out the sausage meat down the centre of the puff pastry. Top with the cooled apple and cranberry mixture. With a sharp knife, cut stripes almost from the filling out to the edge.

Brush some beaten egg onto the pastry and then carefully fold in alternate sides of the pastry to overlap on top of the filling.

Keep going until the filling is covered. Fold over the pastry at the top and the bottom. You may need to trim of some excess pastry if it looks a little too bulky.

Brush the pastry with more egg. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is cooked through.

Carefully slice the sausage plait and serve with a simple salad. Delicious!