Tuesday, 23 September 2008

No-bake September?

As much as I love baking, sometimes a reprieve is required. Between my trip to Norway earlier this month, and last week's blissfully relaxing holiday in the Canaries there hasn't been much time for wielding a spatula so I decided to hang up the apron, put down my whisk and do other fruitful things, like reading P.G. Wodehouse's riotous 'The Mating Season'.

No-bake September is coming to an end, so in the no-baking spirit I've inadvertently embraced this month, here's a recipe for an energizing breakfast smoothie ;-)

Raspberry Smoothie (with a ginger twist) 

serves one greedy Scandinavian
  • handful frozen raspberries
  • 150ml plain bio yoghurt
  • 1 banana
  • juice of 2 oranges
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • grated fresh ginger (1-2 cm piece)
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • if you like your smoothie sweet, add a teaspoonful of runny honey!
Using a hand blender, mix all the ingredients in a tall jug, and serve in a tall glass - as you can see the tall glass I used was a wine glass...

Friday, 12 September 2008

Plums galore

Well, this was certainly a longer than anticipated hiatus from blogging! After an unexpected trip to Norway, I arrived back in London to autumnal greyness and gloom. Actually, that's not strictly true - it's been lovely here. Crisp, cool days with glimmers of sun, and the shops are full of the best autumnal produce - I absolutely love the myriad of plums available this time of year, from Damsons to Greengages, and that old favourite Victoria. There's so much you can do with these little gems, and frankly they're much more interesting than apricots, which so many people obsess about...can't quite see why, apricots are often bland, mushy and weakly perfumed with an indifferent aroma. Make jam from apricots I say, or dry them for use in cereal. Plums, clearly the superior fruit, are the way to go this September! 

And what better way to celebrate these babies than with a fabulous German-inspired 'pflaumkuchen', or plum cake if you will. The ideal way to treat yourself and friends at tea time, this cake lasts for several days. Serve this warm as a naughty pudding if you can't squeeze in an afternoon tea break :-)

Be generous with the plums, the fruitiness of this cake is what makes it so sublime

  • 12-14 plums, quartered
  • 200g butter, melted
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 125g plain, unsweetened yoghurt
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon - or indeed any spice you have a predilection for! Orange zest also goes v.well with this...
  • handful of slivered almonds or coarsely chopped hazelnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 180 ºC. Lightly grease a 24cm round cake tin

Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and stir through with a large metal spoon a few times. Then pour the melted butter around the perimeter of the bowl (stops the butter from sinking into a blob at the bottom of the bowl), and fold through, scraping the sides of the bowl to incorporate as much of the butter as possible. Then add your yoghurt and give the mixture a few more stirs until it looks even.

Don't worry if there are pockets of flour bobbing about, you want to keep as much of the air from the whisked eggs as possible, so the plum cake is light and fluffy!

Spoon the cake batter into the round cake tin, and then add the plums, lightly pushing them down into the batter. They will sink slightly during the baking process so don't bother arranging them too much...

Scatter the nuts on top if you're using them, and then bake on the central shelf of the oven for 45mins-1 hour. The cake will look a little underdone initially, so it's worth checking with a skewer for doneness.  The skewer should come out clean, with no uncooked cake batter on it.

When the cake is baked, allow to cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Delicious served warm, with a dollop or three of either sour cream, vanilla custard or (healthier option, and not any worse for it!) Greek yoghurt...mmm!