Easter Birthday Cake

This is a week+ late, but I wanted to share this.  I so enjoyed making it!  The purpose was for a family celebration of Mum’s birthday which fell on Easter Sunday.  One cake for two celebrations.

The batter was very runny but the cake worked out perfectly.

P1070035P1070037P1070040The icing was made in the food processor – a doddle!P1070042Iced, with Maltesers plopped on top!P1070043P1070045This was a Maltesers Cake from Nigella’s cookery book ‘Feast’.  The secret ingredient – in the cake batter and in the icing – was…Horlicks!  Nigella promises the flavour is subtle, but I was worried it might overpower, depending on whether one actually likes Horlicks.

I cannot bear the smell of the stuff, so have never tasted the drink.  Many years ago as a child, after Church each Sunday evening we would go visit an Aunt and I used to prepare a hot Horlicks drink for her at each visit.  Bleugh…!  A colleague who I worked with some years ago used to suck/chew on Horlicks tablets(sort of sweets) – vile!  But she loved them.

It smells – and I presume tastes – of the malted part of Maltesers.  Maltesers are great!  Horlicks is not.  Anyway, I digress…

I bravely taste-tested the icing – the Horlicks flavour was indeed subtle, and I added some extra cocoa powder for a slightly stronger chocolate flavour.

The overall result was sticky but light.  The sponge cake is fairly low-fat which makes it moist.  I wouldn’t have attempted a slice without one of my beloved cake forks.  It most certainly went down well with the family  🙂

P1070052

And it was so easy to make – it’s renewed my enthusiasm for cooking and baking, to get some variety rather than preparing the same dishes repeatedly.

Do you have a favourite cake?

Advertisements

Delightful Dessert

There was a meeting of paths in my life, recently:  An avocado which had been in the fridge for too long, and needed help to prevent waste;  and a dessert idea I have often seen on various websites.

[Apologies for the blur]

Avocado?  Dessert?  Can this be right?  Has the girl lost the plot…?  Nope!

I present to you….Chocolate Avocado Pudding.  This is how I made it, but see notes below.

Scoop out an avocado into a bowl.

Mash it with a fork to make it as smooth as possible.  Add a drizzle of Agave syrup, and mash that in.

Add 1 heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder and mix that in well.  The mixture will now be rather thick and stodgy – I mixed in 3 tablespoons of milk to keep it smooth and light.  Taste, and adjust for sweetness and consistency – add a little more milk if you wish.

Serve in a bowl and enjoy!

This dessert was a chocolate heaven!  There is no taste of avocado – it just provides a fresh, green underlying taste.  The cocoa gives a wonderful bitter chocolate kick, with a touch of sweetness from the sweetener.  And the texture is melty, smooth and luxurious.  I topped with grated coconut – to give a Bounty bar!  But this would be great with chopped nuts, maybe some raisins, or a mix of toasted seeds.

It feels indulgent and luxurious to dig in to, but it’s satisfying to know that this pudd is full of minerals and vitamins to nourish the body.  People can so easily become hung up on the calorie count of avocados due to their oil-content.  But what about all the other wonderful nutrients they provide?  Do they not matter?  It surely is healthier to indulge in a dessert like this, than a chocolate bar with a poor nutrition profile and possibly a higher calorie count than this dessert.  Food is more than just calories and fat.  Food can provide an abundance of healthful nutrition, and those minerals and vitamins and other nutrients all work together to provide balance and support maximum absorption by the body.  Nature is fantastic!

Avocado:  Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids, fibre, complete protein(contains all essential amino acids needed for the body to produce protein), vitamins A/C/E/K as well as the B vitamins, and all manner of minerals; anti-inflammatory to the body, low GI and heart/cholesterol friendly

Cocoa powder:  Fibre, protein, potassium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, manganese, some B vitamins; and low GI

I had a lazy day when I made this dessert – in fact I made it for a snack, rather than eating something processed(made a nice change!).  For a guaranteed, really smooth result make it in a food processor.  Use any sweetener you wish, but it needs to be smooth for the smooth result.  Using caster sugar, for example, will provide a gritty result.  Okay I guess, but just not smooth.  Powder or liquid sweeteners should be fine.  Add as much or as little as you wish, depending on your desired sweetness.  Also add as much or as little milk as you wish, depending on the consistency you want.  The addition of the cocoa makes it quite thick and gunky – which is okay if you wish – but I like the dessert a little lighter and more ‘whippy’.  Cocoa powder gives the intense, dark chocolate flavour.  Drinking chocolate might work?  But the chocolate flavour would be much milder, and drinking chocolate also has sugar added to it which would affect the sweetness factor.  All of this discussion makes it seem so complicated – it’s not!  This is a simple and easy dessert to make.

I need some more topping ideas, please?

Divine

A couple of weeks ago I made blueberry pancakes but didn’t take pictures for the blog – duh!  So I went to the fridge to get a punnet of blueberries out as I fancied them for brunch today – they were mouldy… 😦

What to use instead?

Mmm-mmm… Dark chocolate chunk pancakes – wonderful!  I had a half pack left, and chopped it roughly with a sharp knife.

American Pancakes(Serves 2)

100g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp caster sugar

150ml milk

Butter(for cooking)

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then whisk in the milk.  Whisk it well, to prevent any flour-lumps.  Leave to stand for 5 minutes.

If you are adding mix-ins, stir those in now.

In a frying pan melt dots of butter until sizzling, on a moderate heat.  Drop a serving spoon of batter into the melted butter and repeat, leaving space between each pancake.  Allow the pancakes to cook for approx 1 minute – they will be ready to turn when you see tiny holes appearing in the batter.  Flip the pancakes, cook for approx one minute.  They should be golden brown on each side with no doughiness on the outside.

Slide on to a plate, make more pancakes with the remaining batter.  Serve and enjoy!

I used wholemeal flour as that’s what was in the cupboard.

Four pancakes squeezed into the pan, side-by-side.  I made the first four plain, and then mixed in the chopped chocolate for the remaining batter.

See those tiny holes appearing?  I didn’t poke them with a skewer…  It happens naturally during cooking, and means they’re just about ready to be flipped.

Brunch is served m’lady…Hot and tasty – the cooked chocolate is so good.  It’s bitter and melty in the middle, and smells a little bit burnt although it didn’t taste burnt.  Burnt dark chocolate is not pleasant.

I’m no expert at American Pancakes by any means, but I always cook the pancakes with a lid on the pan – it means a gentler heat can be used which reduces the risk of the pancakes(and the butter)burning, and I think the pancakes cook more evenly all the way through.  The mix-ins can be surprisingly hot, so be careful when eating!  I noticed this with the blueberries, and this time with the chocolate.

This recipe can be halved to serve one – I did that last time, and it worked perfectly.  I like to leave the batter to stand for at least five minutes after whisking, to allow the starch cells in the flour to ‘pop’ so the end result is not too floury.  Leftover pancakes can be eaten later – I’ve never reheated them; but I’ve eaten cold blueberry pancakes, and cold chocolate chunk pancakes – totally acceptable for a snack!  These are handy for travelling.

Adding chocolate creates a terribly messy pan to clean!  But it’s well worth the effort…  Just cook any chocolate ones last.

Other mix-ins?  Anything you fancy, I guess!  I think tinned peaches could be good…blueberries…milk chocolate…cherries…coconut…strawberries…maybe some nuts?

I wonder what savoury pancakes might be like…?  With extra mature Cheddar grated in?  Or some goat’s cheese?  Oh my word – that may be an experiment for next weekend.

Toppings can be endless.  I like plain pancakes with a drizzle of maple syrup and a chopped banana.  Nutella…peanut/almond butter…fresh fruit and a dollop of Greek yogurt…  For something really special, maybe some dried fruit soaked in brandy…?  Such as sultanas or raisins?  Whoa!  Serve those to your guests with a dollop of thick cream and you’ll be so popular!

Oh dear…my mind is working overtime…

Snack

Just a little one, which was sweet, tasty and crunchy.

Oats(1 snack-size serving)

30g Oats, 2 teaspoons golden caster sugar, water, walnuts, splash of milk

Add the oats and sugar to a cup(which is suitable for the microwave), pour in enough water to cover the oats – it will look watery, but that’s ok.  Microwave for 1 min 20 sec.

Add a splash of milk and stir well, top with walnuts.  Enjoy!

Use any sugar you like – I just like the caramel-ish taste that brown sugars impart.  Use less sugar if you wish, but I wanted to satisfy a sweet craving.  If you wish to make the oats with milk rather than water, go ahead!

This little snack packs a great nutritional punch!

Oats: Soluble fibre, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, small amounts of vitamin E, potassium, folic acid

Walnuts: Vitamin A, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, copper, manganese, Omega-3 fatty acids, protein – and many more!

Whole, natural foods are so good for us with such a variety of nutrients which all balance themselves out if we take a balanced diet(unless of course, for medical/health reasons, one has to abstain from a particular food-type/group).

The toppings for the oats are without limit, depending on your fancy and what you have in!  Next time I shall try some maple syrup with walnuts…cocoa powder…banana…dried fruits…other nuts…a blob of Nutella…sliced apple and cinnamon…just milk and sugar…tinned fruit(e.g. peaches)…granola…frozen berries…some chopped dark chocolate…fresh fruit…the list is endless!

What would you top snack-oats with?

Busy Mornings…

…mean not much time to prepare wonderful porridge for breakfast.  I have always cooked oats in the microwave for 1.5 minutes – so they’re not too hot to eat but provide some warmth.  But this often means they’re quite chewy – which I don’t mind at all.  Only, now I’ve started preparing porridge this way, I doubt I’ll ever use the old method again.

I’ve been cooking a large batch of porridge on a Sunday, ready for the week ahead.  It’s so easy!  And because I cook the oats in the Slow Cooker, the result is soft, gooey porridge because of the slow cooking and soaking.

The folded tea-towel on top of the Slow Cooker is a tip I learnt from a website ages ago – it helps maintain a constant and warmer temperature for even cooking, especially if your kitchen is cold.  Works for me!

Slow Cooker Porridge(4 servings)

1 Cup Porridge Oats

3 Cups water

1/2 Cup milk

1/4 Cup Demerara Sugar

Mix all ingredients in the Slow Cooker and turn the Slow Cooker on to Medium setting for 4 hours.  I stir half-way through, to prevent sticking or clumping of the porridge.

If the finished porridge is to be stored, allow it to cool completely then decant into storage containers – individual pots/tubs are good for taking to work.  Refrigerate.  To reheat, spoon the required amount in to the serving dish and microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds. Stir thoroughly, with a little extra liquid(I use milk).  Or spoon the required amount in to a saucepan, stir thoroughly with a little extra liquid, and gently heat on the hob to the desired temperature.  Serve and enjoy!

Discussion is necessary!  Mix the proportions of liquid as you wish.  If you prefer more milk, then use a greater proportion.

For this recipe I used Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Whole Rolled Porridge Oats because I like the chew, and the 3.5 Cups of liquid is just right.  I have previously used Oatmeal of Alford Medium ground oats, and this needed a total of 4.5 Cups of fluid as it is a thicker texture, and much more absorbent.  It also required 5 hours of Slow Cooking, not 4.

Some recipes suggest adding a little butter or greasing the Slow Cooker pot before starting, to reduce the risk of the porridge sticking to the sides or burning.  I tried this and the end result tasted fatty/greasy, and I found it unpleasant to taste – although the idea suggested flapjack in a Slow Cooker to me!  Hence I stir the porridge during cooking – although it’s generally advised not to life the lid during cooking as it prolongs cooking time, but I have had no problems so far.

Regarding sweetness, add no sugar at all if you wish!  If you are cooking for two or more people who might want different add-ins, then cooking plain porridge is an option as extras can be stirred in or sprinkled on top when it is actually served.

Alternatively add whatever you wish for sweetness and flavouring and nutrition.  I love the caramel edge to the flavour of Demerara sugar, that’s why I use it.  Any sugar or sweetener will suffice.  Other ideas would be the addition of dried fruits such as apricots, raisins, cranberries or sultanas; nuts and seeds; and cinnamon and pumpkin would be good, with raisins, for a wonderful Autumnal flavour…  Chopped banana with chocolate chips sounds a good idea to me, and also berries or other chopped fresh fruit.

Of course I also like chocolate for breakfast, so a dollop of Nutella or Dark Chocolate Dreams on top would be great!  But I would add this after I have reheated the porridge.

When the cooked porridge is allowed to cool, it will become solid – and you’ll think you are cutting slices of flapjack – no bad thing in my book 😉

But this is why the portion to be served has to be thoroughly stirred with a little liquid, to make it soft and liquidy again.

And finally, thus far I have not been brave enough to a) conquer savoury add-ins to porridge and b) leave this cooking overnight to wake up to in the morning.  I cannot face a pot of burnt porridge…may be one day perhaps.

That oaty creaminess makes me want some now…and there’s no reason why this can’t be a warming and nutritious snack.  Bring it on…

What is your favourite way with porridge? What are your thoughts on savoury porridge?