Tuesday, 16 October 2018

When life gives you quinces make crumble!

This year we had a bumper crop of quince.
What is Quince you say? Well it's a very dense, compact and a bit of a dry fleshy but aromatic cross between a pear and a zingy apple.
It's scent is beautiful but hard to describe... It's heady, sweet and almost citrus like with a hint of bee's wax yet the skin is thick and waxy to the touch.



They are usually covered in a thin layer of light brown fluff almost like velvet but they lose their fury jacket when ripe and their colour becomes a bright sunny yellow with slight tones of lime green.
OK they are odd looking but when cooked they become squishy and lovely with a tart taste, a bit like crab apples!
But they aren't the prettiest of fruits though I quite like their bulbous knobbly look and I actually love eating them raw... OK that's not for everyone, I'll admit it but I'd say try a tiny bit so you get the full taste of it in its raw, untouched state.




Because this year we had an amazing long hot summer our small garden tree gifted us with about 21 kilos of fruit!
We've never had so much, the first year 8 kilos followed by a poor 4 after we pruned it right back but joy of joys... this year it gave us back a huge glut!
And so apart from making the usual Quince based recipes like "Marmelada" (Portuguese quince paste) and chili sauce I also decided to boil up a huge lot so to freeze and use later through out the winter.

 


This lead me to think, OK I have all these boiled quinces but what am I actually going to use them for?
Apart from adding them to porridge and yogurt for breakfast I thought it might be worth exploring favourite recipes which I already love eating... hummm, so I made a crumble!
And you know what, it was delicious and by far my now favourite type of crumble although apple is still good this is a much tarter alternative which is exactly what I love!
I know, not everyone likes that kind of "flying saucer" like sharpness but it's a great pick me up on a dark winters day.

NOTE: And if you don't have quinces you can usually find them in Turkish/European supermarkets or failing that you can use apples or any fruit you love.
I used a mix of quince and pear as I had some lonely pears in the fruit bowl looking a bit sad!

Quince and pear Crumble...


Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 600 g Quinces, washed, peeled, cored and boiled in a big pot of water with a stick of cinnamon
  • 400g of Pears, washed cored and cut into large chunks (I left the skin on for a better texture)
  • tablespoon of demerara sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 100g plain flour
  • 75g vegan margarine
  • 50g rolled oats
  • 80g demerara sugar
  • 1 large teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon of cardamon powder (Omit if you don't like Cardamon)
  • handful of almond flakes

METHOD:

Filling:
In a large pot boil your quinces in enough water to cover them with a stick of cinnamon.
Leave to boil and cook until tender but still with a nice bite to them, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Drain, remove cinnamon stick and set aside.

In a pan add a small knob of margarine and gently sauté your pears on a medium heat.
I didn't precook the pears as I like them to still keep their structure otherwise it'll all go to mush!
After they've slightly coloured add your boiled quince to the pan, a pinch of sugar and mix well. Add 1tbsp of water and gently simmer for a few minutes.
Note: You can add a glug of Calvados if you wish for a boozy crumble though I would flambé it so to cook out the alcohol!
Also at this point you can also add some sultanas -although I think they are the Devil's food hence why I've omitted them from my recipe!

Remove from the heat and set aside.

Crumble:
In a food processor add the flour and margarine and pulse until it resembles sand.
This will happen quite quickly, a few pulses should do the job!
Remove the blade and mix in the sugar, oats, cinnamon and cardamon with a wooden spoon.

In a large deep oven proof dish pour in the pear and quince mixture and top with the crumble. Sprinkle on the flaked almonds and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the crumble is a golden brown colour.

Serve warm with oat creme fraiche or soya cream!
I bought some Oatly Fraiche to try and oh my, it's absolutely amazing!!! I'm sure there are other brands on the market (and in no way is this post a paid advert) but I thought I'd share the brand because it's so good!

Enjoy! 





Friday, 3 August 2018

Use your (Banana) loaf...

This easy and quick recipe is a doddle plus it's also a great way to use up those overly ripe bananas that we all seem to have in our fruit bowls!
They look so sad just sitting there... they really will be happier in a cake, so go on use your loaf and think about using up all your food!
We throw away far too much food so lets make those sad banana's day and bake them into a sweet tasty loaf cake!
And with this simple recipe you can add what ever extras take your fancy like chocolate chips, candied ginger, walnuts, pecans, poppy seeds, blueberries... and so on but I've kept mine simple and added just cinnamon for a nice clean taste. I like to add fresh berries on the side but totally your call if you want to add anything else to it...




Ingredients:
3 ripe bananas
80ml sunflower oil
75g caster sugar
125g self raising flour
2tsps baking powder
1tsp powdered cinnamon
pinch of salt
*optional 1tsp vanilla paste

Method:
Preheat your oven to 180•C/ 350F/Gas Mark 4
In a food processor blitz the bananas with the sugar and oil until smooth.
Add the sifted flour and baking powder into the food processor then add the cinnamon and a pinch of salt and give it a quick blitz to mix but make sure not to over beat it. It should take no more than 5 seconds or there about.
Remove the blade and if you're adding any extras do it now, using a spatula or wooden spoon mix in your goodies just enough to incorporate into the batter.
Line a loaf tin with grease proof/baking paper and fill with the cake batter. Give your tin a little tap on the counter so all the batter settles into the tin.

Bake in the middle shelf of the oven for 25 minutes then cover with foil so it doesn't burn and leave for a further 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Place on a wire rack and leave in the tin for 5 minutes before removing from the tin to cool completely.

Serve with fresh berries, coconut cream, soy yogurt or vegan ice cream.... heck, go all out and add them all if you're feeling like you need a treat!












Thursday, 2 August 2018

Hey good lookin', tell me whatcha got cookin'...

A few things have happened since my last post one being that Yorkshire Tea heard our plea, followed by an online twitter campaign, will from now on stop using plastic in their tea bags!
Small steps which hopefully others will follow so you know if you still like the ease of using tea bags then I can recommend Yorkshire Tea. All we need to do now is to get them to stop using plastic packaging... though one thing at a time!



*Just a note, YT has in no way paid or asked me to say this, apart from it being a really good tea they were receptive and open so why not share their greatness and tell others!

Apart from small online victories I have also started thinking about adding savoury recipes to this blog.
Initially it was going to be all about baking but as I'm discovering vegan food is amazing but not always the easiest or simplest type of cuisine plus I thought I'd like to share my triumphs like a fab "cheese" recipe I found.
OK It doesn't have to be hard, by no way do you have to spend hours in the kitchen but I fear that it's me and the difficulty I'm finding in letting go of certain foods. Yes... After almost 30 years of being a vegetarian I finally waved goodbye to cheese and eggs. Yes, I know you're probably thinking "You took your bloody time!" and although that is true I can admit that it was out of ignorance and not out of not caring. And apart from the fact that cheese tastes nice!!!
After a long time I finally decided that I could do this, that I could go completely animal free although -and please don't hate me!- I still have leather shoes and a jacket mainly because I'm wearing it until it gives up rather than just chucking it. I think that throwing it away would be a disservice as I do not wish to bin what that animal gave up for us. It's a weird one but in time I might change my mind.

Now back to why I gave up eggs and diary... It's hard when you're force fed lies about farming and sometimes it is easier to just tell yourself that surely it can't be all bad. Like free range eggs for example, in my mind I genuinely believed that hens would live like they did at my gran's: a quiet, sedate, stress free life with lots of acreage to roam and do what a chicken normally does. My nan (my main cooking muse) had chickens and she cared for them with attention to their needs and lots of love even though occasionally she would slaughter one for the table.

But what I learnt was that not all chickens live that life. Egg hens aren't living a beautiful paradise though much has improved since the time of battery farms there is still a long way to go.
I'm not here to force feed you an agenda or to preach - I'm happy with people choosing to look into their diets and even if they go one day a week meat/animal free than that's a positive! Although in a perfect world how amazing would it be if we could be a plant based society? Not only would we be helping the planet but also eradicating famine and animal exploitation.

So yes- and you'll notice that I write/say "so" and "yes" a lot!- this blog will serve as a personal recipe book but also a place to share those recipes. What ever your reason is for being here, welcome and I hope you enjoy baking and cooking as much as I do!

Monday, 27 November 2017

Tea's made...

Yes like me you find it shocking that tea bags -not all but many- are made using polypropylene aka plastic!
Is there nothing sacred?

I'm sure that many of you have seen the latest episode of the BBC's Blue Planet and have been shocked to see just how huge the problem with plastic is... we're literally suffocating the seas with it and it needs to stop!

So if we start with a little step like using one of these (a tea infuser spoon)...

... then maybe we can make a huge difference! Small steps mean a lot and they are so easy to use plus convenient too so no excuses!
Plus by using loose tea you can make your own expertly blended teas which suit your own taste. Personally I have a blend inspired by "Russian Caravan" made with rooibos, cinnamon, orange peel and lapsang souchong.
Now fire up the kettle, it's time to make some tea without killing the planet!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Welcome!

From a very early age my grandmother introduced me to baking passing on to me a deep rooted family tradition.
All the women in our family were cake makers! My fondest memories are of helping her place pineapple rings in the bottom of the tin for upside down cakes that seemed to permanently reside in her sideboard.
Every summer we'd be carted off to Porto to spend our holidays and without fail there would always be a cake to go with our 4 o'clock tea. Moist, yellow, fluffy, buttery cake flesh... I can still smell it and it brings me feelings of joy, of being safe and loved.

Nan's was very similar but minus the cherries... thankfully she also wasn't a fan of glacé fruit!

I'm pretty sure we didn't bake a cake every day and I'm not sure how she managed to always have a cake in there... it was like a self reproducing cake that multiplied itself in the cupboard! Hum, possibly a bit of magic happening there too!!!
My gran was an Anglophile and absolutely loved the whole "cream tea" pomp. Not that she wasn't proud of her Portuguese heritage but our family has a deep connection with England, its language and traditions. Speaking of traditions there's also a tradition similar to afternoon tea in Portugal known as"lanche" which is pared down and less of a ceremony though it's still something which people partake in daily. Well not so much now but the more traditionalists do. It's a bit like a snack to keep you going until dinner but mainly consisting of eating something cakey along with a cup of milky coffee or tea, bread and cheese or simply tea and toast.
I can still picture her, she was a slight build woman with dark twinkly eyes framed by always beautifully coiffed jet black hair with a wide Cheshire cat of a smile asking as she poured the amber nectar from her flowery tea pot into thin china cups: "Do you know who introduced tea to the English? It was our queen, Catherine of Bragança! Back then they were drinking ale... it was us who gave them tea! ".



By the age of six I started baking my own cakes in my favorite toy ever... The Betty Crocker"Easy Bake" toy oven.
Ahhhh...the "Easy Bake oven"! It actually worked by cooking the batter with the heat of a light bulb but obviously there is a limit to what a light bulb can bake.
The cake tins were tiny and there was a knack of getting them in and out of the small slits on either side without burning yourself. Ah yes, those were dangerous times with dangerous toys but that set me on my way to experimenting with recipes and making up my own!
Unfortunately the "Easy Bake" oven due the non existing temperature regulation options delivered mostly burnt cakes which were flat and hard as a rock but they did introduce me to baking and ignited a passion which is still burning, unlike my "Easy bake" oven which is long gone!




Also I've been looking into the psychological benefits of baking. It's quite easy to lose yourself in cake making, and like knitting and other crafts, it's quite easy to find a flow while conjuring up the sweet stuff! It's a practice I'm keen to explore further -and one I already work with but within arts and crafts disciplines. I truly believe that there's a meditative quality about baking plus at the end you get to taste the benefits too!

My grandmother is no longer here and regretfully her recipes have been misplaced, forgotten or discarded by relatives, a great inheritance and treasure lost forever! I just wish I had paid more attention or written it all down when I stood next to her in her kitchen creaming butter and sugar together to form the basis of her "Perpetual pineapple cake".
As an homage to my beautiful paternal grandmother Maria Adelaide who was also a fervent animal lover I decide to set up a blog with recipes of some of my favorites that she baked and also to help me find a greener way of living. I've been a vegetarian for the past 27 years and after all this time I've now decided to go a step further and go -pardon the pun!- full hog and go vegan!

So here it is, this blog will work not only as a diary, a place to muse and share memories but also to share my recipes/experiments and even failures because we can bake awesome cakes with a little know how, a bit of experimentation and without the use of any animal produce!

Please feel free to share your recipes too and together we can bake a better, greener, sweeter and less cruel world...
Happy baking!



P.S.

This blog post has been edited on the 27th/11/2017
Previously this blog was used for general cake recipes  -all vegetarian- but as the idea of this blog has slightly changed I've decided to still use this address. It had been "Let them eat cake" but still retains the magic and passion I have for baking! Thanks for reading :)