What I'm cooking and eating

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Fruit Cake

I don't know why Americans don't like fruit cake - this is delicious, moist, relatively low in fat, and keeps for ages! The nuts are optional, if you don't care for them, simply omit them.

120 g stoned prunes
500 g mixed cake fruit (DON'T buy the supermarket "Value" varieties - this is where it really does pay to buy the slightly more expensive kind. My mother buys the "Finest" range; I, meaner, buy the intermediate one)
3 eggs
150 g sugar
250 g self-raising flour
Pinch salt
Tsp mixed spice
Optional: 200g pack chopped nuts
Optional: Blanched whole almonds

Cover the prunes with water, bring to the boil, leave to cool. It makes the cake moister if you cover the fruit with tea (or perhaps lager or dark beer) and allow it to soak for 6 hours or so, but you don't have to do this. I added some spice to the tea, or you could use that Indian spiced tea.

Cream the prunes, sugar, eggs, and 3 tbs of the soaking liquid in a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl and fold in the sifted flour and then the dried fruit and nuts if using. Transfer to a greased 7" (18 cm) (cake tin and cover the top with almonds in a pretty pattern. Or not. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar.

Bake in a low oven (250 F, 125 C, Mark 1) for 2 1/2 hours.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Lentil Salad

3/4 cup (190 ml) Puy or other small green lentils
1 stock cube, tsp stock powder or gel pot
About 1/3-1/2 cucumber
1 bunch spring onions
125 g (roughly) Feta or similar cheese
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs Balsamic vinegar

Cook the lentils in plenty of water with the stock added. They will take about 30-35 minutes. Drain, then stir in the chopped cucumber, spring onions and cheese. Add the oil and vinegar. Stir well and leave to cool before serving.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Summer rice salad

This is adapted from a Rose Elliott recipe.

1 cup Basmati rice (250 ml)
500 ml boiling water
Pinch salt

4 large tomatoes (best quality, please; ideally vine-ripened)
2 medium-sized avocadoes
1 large or 2 small bunches locally-grown asparagus

2 tbs olive oil
2-3 tbs lemon juice
Dried garlic.

Put the rice in a large pan with the pinch of salt and the boiling water. Bring back to the boil, then reduce the flame to the merest candle, as low as possible, and leave undisturbed for 15 minutes (45 if you are using brown rice, which is excellent in this salad).

Meanwhile, stand the tomatoes in boiling water for 1 minute, then refresh, so that the skins slip off easily. Chop. Peel and chop the avocados, and sprinkle with at least 1 tbs of the lemon juice, to avert discolouration. Steam the asparagus, and then chop.

When the rice is cooked, let stand for 5 minutes to absorb any surplus water, then sprinkle with the garlic (the original recipe calls for you to crush a clove of garlic into it, which I usually do, but thought it would overwhelm the asparagus. Nevertheless, it does need a touch), salt and pepper, then stir in the oil and the rest of the lemon juice. Then stir in the vegetables and mix thoroughly. Allow to cool before serving.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Mum's Trout

My mother may be 83, but she is still a marvellous cook, and this is one of her specialities, so I hope I do it right. These are her instructions:

1 trout
Butter, salt, pepper, lemon-juice

Butter the tinfoil and add salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Put the trout down on it, and add more butter, salt, pepper and lemon juice to it. Fold the foil so it encloses the tail section of the trout, but don't close it up so that the steam can escape. Bake for about 20 minutes at 180 C (in a fan oven) - that's 200 C in an ordinary one, mark 6. Open the foil to allow the steam to escape while it cools.

To serve cold, she removes the skin, and sometimes the spine as well ("But it never looks so tidy!") and covers it with sliced cucumber so the joins don't show. With little rolls of smoked salmon on the side, and perhaps some prawns as well (you'll be lucky, in this household - I don't eat prawns!). And lots of different kinds of salads.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Texas Caviare

I haven't abandoned this blog; it's just that I have been very dull about food this month, mostly because we are between holidays and the plainer the better! However, I have a family dinner tomorrow, and am making salad, and since some of my friends list had no idea what Texas caviare was, I thought I would post my recipe. Obviously, if you google, you'll see everybody else's take on it, and mine is a bit of a synthesis thereof!

3/4 cup (I do use American cups for things like beans; it's about 190 ml in a measuring jug) dried black-eye peas
1/2 small red onion
1 chilli pepper
1 yellow or red pepper
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
1 small tin sweetcorn (or an equivalent amount of frozen sweetcorn that you have microwaved)
3 tbs bought salad dressing - Italian dressing is the classic, but I only had honey mustard in a bottle, so used that!

Soak the peas overnight. Next day, rinse thoroughly and cook in plenty of water, boiling fairly hard, for about 30 minutes - they may need more if you have had the packet for awhile, so taste after 30 minutes and then see. If they are cooked, drain, rinse, and allow to cool.

Chop the onion and peppers and halve the tomatoes. Drain the sweetcorn. Mix everything together and let sit overnight for the flavours to mingle.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Pasta with asparagus, Parmesan and pine nuts

This was inspired by our recent holiday in Italy, Austria and Germany, where every restaurant offered a wide range of dishes containing asparagus! And most also offered wild garlic soup, too!

Serves 2:

100 g pasta (I used tagliatelle, but whatever!)
1/2 tbs olive oil
Small piece butter
1 tbs pine nuts
60 g Parmesan cheese, grated
1 bunch locally-grown asparagus

Cook the pasta as directed on the packet, and steam the asparagus (on top of the pasta, if you like, but I used a microwave steamer). Meanwhile, put the butter and oil into another saucepan, and when heated, add the pine nuts and toast gently for a few moments. Drain the pasta, and stir into this mixture, then stir in the Parmesan. Serve in bowls with the steamed asparagus on top.