It is blowing a howling gale here today. Power lines have been brought down by falling branches, causing disruptions to our electricity supply as well as starting several fires. The wind has also ripped the shade cloth cover clean off the allotment – never a dull moment. It’s a good day to stay indoors, drink tea, eat leftover carrot cake and write blogs!
Once a week I play bridge with three lovely women who live in the nearby village of Nottingham Road. We take turns to host the games, which are very social occasions and call for tasty tea break treats. The others are all very accomplished bakers (Sharyn actually runs a specialty cake business). I, on the other hand, am not. Whenever I’m required to bake, I tend to fall back on my very limited repertoire of foolproof recipes, namely banana muffins and banana bread. However, my bridge friends have inspired me to be a bit more adventurous. After all, how many times can one serve variations on a banana?
So, when my turn came around this week, in a bold move I switched from fruit to vegetable and made a carrot cake instead. It was simple to make and turned out quite well I thought. What I like about this recipe is that everything is in cup measurements, i.e. no weighing of ingredients.
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 ½ cups brown sugar
- ¾ cup vegetable oil (I used light olive oil)
- ⅓ cup golden syrup
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 cup self-raising flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 ½ cups firmly packed grated carrot
- ½ cup drained crushed canned pineapple
- ½ cup chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 160ºC. Lightly grease a 23 cm round cake tin (I have a springform pan which is ideal) and line the base with baking paper (I didn’t have baking paper and the cake came away from the base quite easily without it).
In a large mixing bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs and the sugar until the mixture is frothy. Stir in the oil and syrup and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Sift both flours, the bicarb and cinnamon into the egg mixture and mix until smooth. Stir in the carrot, pineapple and pecans. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and level the top. Bake for 1 – 1 ¼ hours, or until golden and firm to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
I’m not a great fan of very sweet cake icing but I do like cream cheese icing, despite it being loaded with icing sugar. To make cream cheese icing, beat 175 g of cream cheese with 60 g of butter until combined. Continue to beat while gradually adding 1½ cups of sifted icing sugar, 1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon rind and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
Because our chickens keep us well supplied with eggs, I’m always looking for different ways to cook them. I think poached eggs are the tastiest and since the best poached eggs are made with very fresh eggs, I’m in luck. And by poached I mean the proper way, simmered directly in water and not in a poaching pan or silicone pod. The taste really is quite different.
I have written about the poaching technique before but the other day I learnt a new trick that has ensured 100% poaching success and is worth sharing. The key is to place the eggs still in their shells in the simmering water and gently move them around for about 10 seconds, before poaching them. This seems to thicken the egg whites so that when you place the broken eggs into the water, the whites fold beautifully around the yolks. Works perfectly every time! My brother once told me that poached eggs are called uova in camicia in Italian – eggs in shirts. Since then I always imagine the yolks wrapped in foppish, flouncy white blouses.
So: half-fill a medium-size pot with water, add a teaspoon of vinegar and salt and bring to a light simmer. Place the eggs in their shells in the water and roll them around for about 10 seconds. Take the eggs out and break each egg into its own small bowl / saucer. Swirl the water to create a medium-strength circular current (I used a balloon whisk which worked well) and gently slide the eggs, one by one, into the heart of the whirlpool. Allow them to poach for about three to four minutes or until the whites are set. Use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs and dab them with a dry cloth or paper towel before serving. Only cook four eggs at a time.
The other food that we always seem to have in abundance is spinach. This is an Annabel Langbein recipe, from her website: a free range life
My mother made this savoury tart often, and it’s still the best I’ve tasted. It has a denser texture than a quiche and a wonderful green colour. I have doubled the recipe so you can freeze one for later – they freeze beautifully.
Get the recipe here.