Spruced-Up Vanilla Cake

Don’t fret if you don’t have the fanciful cake tin – you can use a Bundt tin to make this delicious and easy cake. Here is a hint…it is fabulous toasted the next morning for breakfast!

9 tbs. softened butter
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
6 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 – 2 tbs. confectioner’s sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F and put a baking sheet in the oven. Generously butter or oil the cake tin.

Put all the ingredients except the confectioner’s sugar in the food processor and blitz to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and spread the top evenly.

Place in the oven on the baking sheet and cook until well risen and golden, 45 – 55 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cover the top with foil is it gets too brown.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then gently coax the edges away and invert onto a large plate. Leave to cool completely, then dust with confectioner’s sugar.

 

Date and Marmalade Christmas Cake

Celebrate the festive season with this molasses-rich and last-minute fruit cake. It can be easily shared out because it is both gluten-free and daily-free!

1 cup strong black tea
18 oz. medjool dates, snipped into pieces
3/4 cup candied cherries or dried cherries
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup sultanas
3/4 cup plus 1 tbs. dark brown sugar
3/4 cup plus 3 tbs. coconut oil
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
scant 1 cup good-quality orange marmalade, plus more for brushing
2 cups almond meal
3/4 cup chopped almonds
3 extra large eggs, beaten

In a large saucepan, combine the tea, dates, cherries, cranberries, sultanas, brown sugar, coconut oil, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Let the batter stand for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 300°F and line the bottom and sides of an 8″ springform pan with parchment paper. (To line the sides, make 1″ snips along the bottom edge and ease it around the tin to form a collar.)

Add the marmalade, almond meal, chopped almonds and eggs to the batter and stir well. Spread in the prepared tin and bake for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours. The sides will be coming away from the tin and the center will leave only a slight stickiness when tested with a cake tester.

Remove to a wire rack and brush with about 3 tbs. marmalade, then let the cake cool in the tin. The cake can be stored in an air-tight container and wrapped in foil for up to a month.

 

Apricot Cake with Cardamon and Rosewater

Simple, beautiful, fragrant and beguiling.

6 oz. dried apricots
1 cup cold water
2 cardamom pods, cracked
2 cups almond meal or flour
1/3 cup fine polenta or fine cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
6 extra large eggs
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. rosewater

To decorate:

2 tbs. apricot jam
2 1/2 tsp. finely chopped pistachios

Put the apricots in a small saucepan, cover them with cold water and tip in the cracked cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, then let boil for 10 minutes, stirring often, until the pan is just about out of water. Set aside to cool.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of an 8″ round springform tin with parchment paper and grease the sides.

In a food processor, combine the almond meal, polenta, baking powder, sugar, eggs, lemon juice and rosewater. Set aside 5 of the apricots, then add the rest and any liquid left in the pan to the processor. Blitz into a smooth batter.

Spread the batter in the tin and smooth the top. Split the apricots in two and arrange them around the circumference of the tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. If the top is getting too brown, top it with foil.

Remove to a wire rack and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes. Brush on the jam, letting the heat of the cake melt it. Sprinkle over the pistachios and leave to cool completely.

 

Mirin-Glazed Salmon

To quote Nigella, “This must be the fastest possible way to create a culinary sensation.”

1/4 cup mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 salmon fillets
2 tbs. rice vinegar
1-2 scallions, shredded into fine strips
rice, to serve

Mix the mirin, sugar and soy sauce in a shallow dish that will hold the 4 fillets. Add the salmon and marinate for 3 minutes on one side and 2 minutes on the other. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet.

Add the salmon to the hot, dry pan and cook for 2 minutes , then turn it over, add the marinade and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the salmon to a serving plate filled with rice. Add the vinegar to the hot skillet and let it bubble into a glaze. Pour over the salmon and serve topped with the shredded scallions.

Serves 4

Mustard Pork Chops

This is such a quick and effortless entree. The pork chops are tender and the pan sauce made of mustard, cider and cream adds comfort and piquancy.

2 pork chops
2 tsp. garlic-infused olive oil
1/2 cup cider or apple juice
1 tbs. wholegrain Dijon mustard
1/3 cup heavy cream

Trim the chops of any fat and season. Put them between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and give them a bash with a rolling pin to make them thinner.

Heat the oil in a skillet over a medium-high heat, then cook the pork chops for abut 5 minutes per side, until just done. Remove them to a warmed plate.

Add the cider to the pan, still over the heat, to deglaze it. Let it bubble for a minute or so, then stir in the mustard and cream. Let the sauce continue to cook and thicken for a few minutes, then pour over the pork chops to serve.

Serves 2

Cauliflower and Cashew Nut Curry

This delightful curry is a fusion of Thai and Indian. It’s a perfect light and meatless meal.

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
2-3 tsp. sea salt flakes or kosher salt
2 bay leaves
1 tbs. cold-pressed coconut oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tsp. finely copped fresh ginger
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tbs. finely chopped coriander stems
1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
14 oz. tin coconut milk
2/3 cup cashews
1 lime, halved
small handful coriander leaves
naan or flatbreads, to serve

Put a saucepan of water on to boil and tip in the cauliflower. Once boiling, add 2 tsp. salt and the bay leaves. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until just barley cooked. Drain.

Heat the oil in a wok or skillet that has a lid. Add the scallions, ginger, cardamom, cumin and coriander stalks. Stir over a medium heat for a minute or two, then add the curry paste and coconut milk.  Add the cauliflower and check the sauce for seasoning. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the cardamom pods.

Meanwhile in a small dry frying pan, toast the cashews until they have colored. Stir half into the cauliflower and set the other half aside.

Transfer the cauliflower to a 2 serving bowls and top with the reserved cashews, coriander leaves and a sprinkle of lime juice. Serve with warm naan or flatbread.

Serves 2

 

Corn Pudding

This sensational side dish would be perfect with a holiday meal …… think Thanksgiving!!!

5 eggs
2 1/4 cups canned sweet corn, drained
1 3/4 cups creamed corn
1 1/3 cups whole milk
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
generous 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (optional)

Heat the oven to 375°F and butter a 10 x 12″ baking dish.

Whisk the eggs and then stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour into the buttered dish, sprinkle with cheese (if using)  and bake for 1 hour, by which time it should be golden and puffed.

Serves 8

Salmon with Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette

Simplicity at it’s finest. You can also grill or broil the salmon to your liking. This is really all about the sweet balsamic vinegar drizzled over the warm salmon.

1 tbs. vegetable oil
4 salmon fillets
6 tbs. balsamic vinegar
6 tbs. olive oil
snipped chives, to serve

Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over a medium heat. Season the salmon and cook on each side for 5-6 minutes, or until done.

In the meantime, combine the vinegar and oil in a small saucepan and heat until just warm. Decant to a pitcher.

To serve, place the salmon on warmed plates, drizzle with the vinaigrette and sprinkle with the snipped chives.

No-Churn Brandied Pumpkin Ice Cream

It is hard to believe that it takes longer to do the washing up than it does to make this fabulous frozen treat. Spiced by the warmth of freshly grated nutmeg and spiked by the mellowness of brandy, this is, indeed, the ultimate autumn pleasure.

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3 tbs. brandy

Combine the pumpkin and sweetened condensed milk in a bowl and stir to mix.

Whisk the cream into soft peaks, then whisk in the pumpkin mixture until thick again. Grate in the nutmeg and whisk in the brandy.

Pour into an airtight freezer container and freeze overnight. Take out of the freeze 5 minutes before serving to soften.

Asian Flavored Short Ribs

This stew is remarkable in its ease for entertaining and its fullness of flavor. Serve with short grain brown rice and a green veg.

5 1/2 lbs. beef short ribs, cut into 2″ squares
1 cup hoisin sauce
2 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Chinese rice wine
2 tbs. Chinese 5 spice powder
1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbs. Asian sesame oil
4 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced
1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely chopped, to serve
2-3 tbs. fresh coriander, chopped, to serve
3-4 lime wedges, to serve

Heat the oven to 300°F. Clatter the short ribs into a large pan that has a lid. Mix together the hoisin sauce, water, soy sauce, wine, 5 spice powder, red pepper flakes, sesame oil and garlic, then pour over the ribs. Cover everything with a layer of parchment paper, tucking it in around the ribs, then cover with the lid. Roast for 4 – 4 1/2 hours until the meat is tender and coming away from the bone. Allow to cool for a bit.

Transfer the ribs into a bowl and gently remove the bones. Cover and chill for at least 1 day or up to 3 days.

Before reheating the ribs, remove the hard layer of fat that will have formed on the top and discard. Transfer the meat to a oven-proof dish, cover with a lid or foil and reheat at 400°F for 1 hour or until piping hot.

Scatter the red chili, and coriander over the top and serve with lime wedges.

Serves 6 – 8