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.

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.

Festive mess with mulled wine berries

 

The aroma of mulled wine is so evocative of Christmas. When I was thinking of ideas for a festive pud recently, it occurred to me that mulled wine would be the perfect way to transform an otherwise rather summery dessert into something a little more Christmassy.

Eton mess does really have summer written all over it, doesn’t it? Usually a mixture of strawberries, cream and pieces of meringue, it  has traditionally been served at Eton College’s annual cricket game against Harrow since the 19th century.

In this version I have used a mixture of frozen ‘winter berries’ from the supermarket – in this case blackberries, blackcurrants, cherries and grapes – and cooked them gently in a thick mulled wine syrup before combining with the cream and homemade meringue, flavoured with a little ginger. Take it from me, it tastes and smells divine. I was a little worried it might be a bit ‘grown up’ for my two daughters but they both chomped their way through it gleefully, and the oldest even had seconds.

Festive mess with mulled wine berries

For the meringue:

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

NB This recipe makes about double the amount of meringue you’ll need for the dish, but I’m sure you’ll find another way to use up the leftover!

For the mulled red wine berries:

150ml red wine
½ stick cinnamon
5 cloves
zest of 1 orange
100g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
300g frozen mixed winter berries

250g whipping cream
2tbsp icing sugar

First of all, make 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, ground ginger and vanilla. Lay a sheet of silicone paper on a baking tray and spread the meringue mixture out onto the sheet to create a large rectangle.

If you have an Aga, put the baking tray on the floor of the roasting oven for three to four minutes, until the meringue is ever so slightly coloured. Then move down to the floor of the simmering oven for about an hour until the meringue is firm on the outside but 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 meringue to cool to remove to room temperature before removing.

Now it’s time to move on to the mulled wine syrup.

Pour the wine into a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add the cinnamon, cloves, orange, sugar and nutmeg and stir well. Allow to simmer for around 10 to 15 minutes until the wine has reduced a little and has more of a sticky syrup consistency. The smell in your kitchen by now will be amazing!

Next add in the frozen fruit, stirring gently, and cook on a low heat until the fruit has defrosted and cooked down a little. But don’t cook so long it turns into a mush; it’s good to have some texture and bite in the fruit. Once the fruit is cooked, leave to one side to cool.

In a large bowl, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and gently stir in the icing sugar.

When the mulled wine berries have cooled, stir these into the whipped cream (reserving a little of the syrup), along with broken pieces of meringue. Serve immediately and finish off with a little drizzle of the mulled wine syrup. Enjoy your delicious bowlful of festive cheer!

Kiwi and blueberry surprise

I am handing over the Bangers & Mash reigns today to my good friend Trish Tucker-May, who runs an awesome juice bar company called Passion 4 Juice, which you may well have come across at one of this summer’s festivals.

I first met Trish a decade or so ago, when we were both pre-kids. I was in the throes of launching my own PR business and she was just setting up Passion 4 Juice. In fact she was one of my first clients. Trish was a real inspiration. I haven’t met many people with the same level of energy and zest for life as her, and it is quite infectious. So while I’ve never invited someone to do a guest post on here before, with Trish I know you will be in safe hands. And so without further ado, here is the lovely Trish and her extremely clever recipe for Kiwi and Blueberry Surprise

How to make a guilt free and tasty pudding

Hi, I am Trish Tucker-May, an Aussie from Forster. You can’t get much more Aussie than that!

I have a pretty crazy life that some people dream about and others may think is just way too hard and crazy. I spend half the year working at summer festivals in the UK and half the year at festivals in Australia. I love travelling and the great outdoors and am passionate about bringing fresh juice and good health to people.

In 2003 I founded Passion 4 Juice Ltd an award winning juice bar company. I have written a small book about redesigning your life to live your passion and I have also self-published a recipe book called ‘Juice and Smoothie Recipes From Around the World’.  Currently I am studying a Diploma in Nutritional Healing – and loving it! I am married to a professional clown and mum to 4-year-old Jack-Patrick (AKA Jackpot) and 2-year-old Roary.

Trish with Roary, Jackpot and Joe

I became a little concerned this week when I thought back over the last three suppers and realised that perhaps they weren’t as nutritious as they should be for my developing 2 and 4-year-old boys. Okay, lasagne is good wholesome food and so is spaghetti  bolognaise, especially when I sneak in a handful of peas,  grated carrots and whatever other veg I can put my hands on at the time.

I know these easy Italian favourites are perfect for my boys. But given my slight aversion (rather than intolerance) to wheat, dairy and meat, I was left craving something green, fresh, and raw.  It was while I was pondering this dilemma that I came up with a fantastic idea. What if I could make something that satisfied my boy’s desire for sweet gooey pudding while also giving myself a treat packed with nutritional goodness? The Kiwi and Blueberry Surprise was born.

Firstly I put 2½ cups of nuts in the blender.  I mixed what I had which was almonds, brazils and cashews – so that was 2½ cups in total, not of each nut.  I blended until all the ingredients crumbled. Next I added ¾ cup of pitted dates and a pinch of salt.  That was the base done.

Next came the slightly sneaky bit. My son Jackpot is very used to me sneaking all sorts of weird and wonderful ingredients into my super green smoothies in the morning so I had to be careful not to be too obvious or I would get the “Mum it’s a bit too green for me, no thanks” treatment.

I peeled and cut a courgette, placed it in the blender with an avocado, a handful of mung bean sprouts, a handful of cashews,  a splash of yoghurt , a cup of frozen passionfruit puree and a tablespoon of agave syrup. I love making raw food so I have all these ingredients to hand. If you don’t have agave syrup, honey will work just as well.

Blend until smooth and pour into the tin.

Next step is to decorate with whatever you have to hand. In this case I used kiwi and blueberries. The kiwi worked well so I called it Kiwi Blueberry Surprise.  It seemed to go well with the green colour. Now the kids didn’t think it was green because of some crazy green vegetables.

Did I successfully satisfy both camps? We ate over half immediately and the boys were delighted. I was truly satisfied with the knowledge of raw sprouts, courgette and avocado for pudding. The following day my husband was home after working away.  I served it with a question – “Bet you can’t guess what is in this?” He is accustomed to me making weird and wonderful creations out of fruit and veg so he had a head start. He got the avocado right but that was all.

I have since shared this idea with a few contacts on a Facebook juice group. They have taken the idea to inspiring new heights and added variations such as chocolate, strawberries, lemon juice, cacao powder, vanilla bean paste, a handful of cashews, flaked almonds, shredded coconut and cacao nibs. To be honest I think my first attempt needed a little extra something and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it – I think a squeeze of fresh lemon and an extra handful of cashews would have done the trick.

So if you are tempted to try this one at home, be daring and always taste as you go. Make sure it has just the right level of sweet, sour, salty or bitter to suit your taste buds. This is a truly guilt free tasty pudding that satisfies the entire family.

Kiwi and Blueberry Surprise

Base
Blend the following and press into a flan tin and store in the fridge while mixing the filling:

2½ cups mixed nuts, such as almonds, cashews, brazils
¾ cup dates
pinch of salt

Filling
Blend the following and pour onto base:

1 avocado
1 peeled raw courgette
1 handful of raw cashews
1 handful of mung bean sprouts
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
¾ cup frozen passionfruit puree
2 tbsp raw agave syrup or honey

optional extra ingredients to taste
cashews, lemon juice, shredded coconut, raw cacao

Decoration
Your choice of fresh fruit – I used sliced kiwi fruit and blueberries.

So what do you think? If you try this out on your family, we’d love to hear how it went down.

You can find Trish on Twitter and Facebook and her website is www.passion4juice.com.

Raspberry chocolate mousse

I love chocolate mousse. It’s probably my favourite dessert in the whole world.

I love it even more because it’s just so easy to make and so versatile. You can add fruit or alcohol or a whipped cream topping, and make it with any type of chocolate you fancy.

And this is my favourite recipe for chocolate mousse, which I’ve adapted from one I got from Riverford, my regular source of inspiration these days. As you’ll see from the photo, I last made it for our Valentine supper and I’ll be making it again at the weekend when friends come to stay.

Raspberry chocolate mousse

Serves 4

180g dark chocolate
2 tbsp milk
6 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
2 handfuls of raspberries (you can use fresh or frozen)
Icing sugar to serve

First of all, melt the chocolate. I tend to do this in the microwave – if it’s good enough for Nigella, then it’s good enough for me. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl with the milk. Microwave on a low setting for a couple of minutes and then give it a stir. Put it back in again for another minute or so if it needs a little longer.

Alternatively use the ‘double boiler’ method. Put the chocolate and milk in a heatproof bowl over a pan of very gently simmering water. Make sure to choose the right sized bowl which doesn’t touch the water. Gently melt the chocolate and take care not to leave it on the heat too long.

Allow the melted chocolate to cool for a few minutes, while you whisk up the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

Beat the egg yolks and then stir these into the chocolate. Then gently fold a few spoonfuls of the egg whites into the chocolate until no traces of white remain. Continue folding in a little egg white at a time until it’s all combined into the mousse mixture.

Place a few raspberries at the bottom of four ramekins or small dishes or glasses, before spooning over the mousse. Chill for at least two hours (or overnight) and top with a couple more raspberries and a little icing sugar before serving.