Simnel cake is the traditional name for a fruity, spicy cake eaten at Easter. You could of course choose to bake it and eat it at any time of the year.
It is easy to make, and really just a variation on plain fruit cake.
6 ounce butter, or margarine if preferred
6 ounces of soft brown sugar
3 eggs lightly beaten
8 ounce of self-raising flour, sieved
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
4 ounce sultanas
12 ounce currants
2 ounce ground almonds
For decorating the cake
2 x 8 ounce packets of almond paste, or make your own.
12 tiny Easter egg sweets selecte your favourite type. These can be chocolate or marzipan balls rolled into an egg shape.
350 degrees F, Gas mark 4
Combine 10 ounces of ground almonds with 10 ounces of caster sugar. Mix into a stiff paste, with juice of half a lemon and one large egg.
Note: Adjust quantities as necessary
Try the following recipes also;
An Old English nursery rhyme relates to a food still on sale today, Hot Cross Buns.
Hot cross buns were sold by street-sellers, around the nineteenth century, to the cry of "Hot cross buns!"
Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny two a penny - Hot cross buns
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons
One a penny two a penny - Hot cross buns
They cost a great deal more than a penny these days but you can still buy packaged buns from supermarkets fairly cheaply. These buns can be warmed under a grill, in a conventional oven or zapped in a microwave but what about making your own though and eating them warm straight from your oven?
For the yeast liquid you will need:
15 to 20 minutes
425 degrees F or Gas mark 7
Boil 2 tablespoons of milk and 2 of water. Stir in 11/2 ounce sugar, boiling for two minutes. Brush the hot buns twice with the glaze.
For a more defined cross on the buns
Place two strips of short crust pastry onto the buns after glazing and before baking
The timing of Easter varies each year. In 2017 it is in April but some years it is early and in March.
Hot cross or Easter buns are already on sale February 2017 and why not?
In some ways they are spiced up teacakes and perfect for a snack warm, cold, grilled or toasted.
Served with lashings of butter when the buns are hot or even some cheese they are so easy to make why not give them a try.
Tuesday February 28, 2017, is Pancake Day in the UK
In February we celebrate Shrove Tuesday, or as it is also known in the UK, Pancake Tuesday. This is not a tradition as widely celebrated as in the past but many families still join in the fun. However, behind the fun is a religious holiday.
Shrove Tuesday is the last day of indulgence before Ash Wednesday and the period of Lent begins. On Shrove Tuesday in the distant past the last food indulgences were used up in pancakes. Shrove Tuesday falls somewhere between 2nd February and the 9th March each year, depending upon which date Easter falls for that year.
For more than a 1,000 years Shrove Tuesday has traditionally been a day for Christians to confess their sins. Shrove is actually an old word for Shrive meaning to confess all sins. After these were absolved by a priest the period of Lent began. Some UK Christians even today will give something up for Lent. It could be chocolate or beer or any food or drink.
It is usually something which they enjoy or else there is no point.
The pancakes were the last treat before the frugal period of Lent and in the past it was often eggs, milk and butter that were omitted from a person’s diet during Lent. Pancakes were a great way to use up household stock, which otherwise would waste.
As a child, brought up in a religious Christian home, pancake Tuesday was a mixed bag. We lived in a tiny terraced house in 50s post-war England. The kitchen was minuscule. I have fond memories of my Mum on Pancake Tuesday though.
My brother and I would sit at the table both trying to consume as many pancakes as possible. Mum would be in the kitchen for ages. Having mixed a large bowl of pancake batter she would proceed to make one pancake after another so we could eat them hot straight from the pan.
Of course expert pancake Mums on Shrove Tuesday have to toss the pancake in the pan. This takes nerves of steel. I have never quite managed it as I tend to dither and then turn the pancake with a spatula.
Mum however was fearless. Up would go the pancake in the air.
Most of the time the pancake landed perfectly back in the pan, on the correct side. Occasionally though she would slightly miss and half the pancake would slip to the floor. Rarely she would miss altogether and the pancake would land on the floor and be binned.
Each year at least one pancake would hit and stick to the low kitchen ceiling. Looking back I do think some of this was my Mum's humour and done to entertain us kids. The kitchen ceiling was not high so perhaps it was accidental but I shall never know now.
Thoughts of pancake Tuesdays of the past have left me wondering about today's children.
These days you can buy readymade frozen pancakes which cook in the microwave in seconds. Alternatively you can by pancake mixture. My poor Mum must be turning in her grave.
How to make the pancakes
Making pancakes from scratch though is quite easy and cheap. Of course some will taste better than others but the mixture is easy and simple to make:
The ingredients and how to make:
Ready to cook?
Place the frying pan over a reasonable heat on your hob. Add a knob of butter or oil if preferred to the pan. Make sure that the fat has melted and is hot before you add the pancake mixture. If there is too much fat drain away the excess.
Spoon or ladle a spoonful of the pancake mixture into the pan, swirling the pan around as you do so. This ensures that the pancakes are thin but that the pan is evenly covered.
It will only take a minute or two to brown the pancake on one side and then you will need to flip, toss or turn your pancake over. Make sure that you ease the pancake away from the pan before you attempt any of these.
Go on give it a whirl and toss the pancake high into the air. I dare you!
If you want to make lots of pancakes and keep them warm to serve together you can.
However you cannot beat fresh hot pancakes straight from the pan.
You can choose to eat the pancakes plain or add a filling
As children syrup or golden treacle was the favourite filling. Some people prefer jam and even cream. Others prefer simply a squeeze of lemon juice. You can make a savoury filling but of course you will need to adjust the ingredients. You will not want to add sugar for these.
So what about you? Do you enjoy Pancake Tuesday? Will you join in the celebration this year and next?
There are still many pancake races around this lovely eccentric country of ours, namely the UK. Take a look at the YouTube links below and have fun.
It seems it is not just we eccentric English who run a race whilst trying to toss a pancake in a pan after all.
No bake cherry ginger crunch
If you are a novice cook, one who prefers easy recipes or just need a to create a gem of a dessert in rapid time this recipe could be for you. It uses ready-made ingredients and is a fail-safe recipe.
Crush the ginger biscuits into crumbs. The easiest way to do this is to put the biscuits into a polythene food bag and close it tightly. Use a rolling pin to crush the biscuits in the bag. This method means no wastage nor mess.
Grease an 8 inch flan tin.
Melt the butter or margarine in a pan, over a low heat. Add the crushed biscuits and powdered ginger to the melted fat, mixing well.
Add water to the evaporated milk until the liquid measures half a pint. Mix the cornflour and sugar with a little of the milk and water mixture. Bring the rest of the milk and water to the boil and pour over the cornflour mixture, stirring well as you do so. Return to the pan, adding the vanilla essence. Bring back to the boil stirring as the mixture thickens.
Cover the ginger base with half of the cherry pie filling and then top with the cornflour mixture. Top the lot with the rest of the cherry pie filling.
Result: A tasty dessert with a difference. The ginger adds a touch of spice and the cornflour mixture prevents a dry taste. All in all a winner. In you do not like cherries try a blackcurrant or blackberry pie filling. Alternatively stew fresh in season fruits.
Note: Easy conversions for this traditional recipe to metric can be found here.
Don't know what bangers and mash are? Then the odds are you are not English or getting on in years.
Bangers and Mash, is a traditional, good value, warming meal, that is quick to prepare and delicious to eat. In plain English, it is a traditional British meal consisting of sausages and mashed potatoes. This meal dates back to the early 1900s. Of course at that time the ingredients of the sausages would have varied from today. In the past the sausage skins were generally made from an animal's cleaned intestines. Today more sausages have artificially made skins which contain sometimes suspect meat.
As Bangers are sausages, and Mash is simply mashed potatoes, it should be easy to get this recipe right, shouldn't it? If only life were that simple.
As with all recipes, the food is not always as tasty as it should be. Much will depend on the quality of the sausages, the means of cooking, the variety of potato, the gravy and so much more.
The perfect potato, or spud as the British call them, for mash.
One of the best varieties of potato, for making great Mash, is the Nadine. It has the right amount of moisture and taste, to make perfect mashed potatoes.
However, when we British make a cheap mid-week meal of Bangers and Mash, almost any potato or sausage will do. However, if you want your Bangers and Mash to rise above the crowd, buy the right potato for the job.
Make sure that you cut the potatoes into regular sized pieces. This guarantees an even cook. Rinse the peeled and chopped potatoes, under cold water, and then place in a pan of cold water. You will need enough water to cover the potatoes.
Years ago, this water was always salted, but these days it is down to personal taste and choice.
When the pan of potatoes has boiled, cover with a lid, and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. The timing depends on the variety of potato, the size of the chunks of potato and the quantity. Drain the potatoes thoroughly and turn into a bowl for mashing. Mash using your preferred methods.
Sausages, or Bangers, are less popular in the UK these days. They are generally classed as having poor nutritional value. For example, cheap sausages may have a slightly suspect source of meat and too much cereal. Sometimes cheap bangers have tough chewy pieces of gristle in them. The contents may also include mechanically retrieved meat, which is not good for you.
The taste and nutritional value of your meal will be improved if you buy good quality sausages. Bangers are usually pork, beef or a mixture of pork and beef. Nowadays, you can buy vegetarian or turkey sausages, but neither of these will make traditional Bangers and Mash.
Sausages can be fried reasonably quickly, but they taste better if cooked in the oven or in a grill pan on the stove. This way you will not need to add any fat, as they will cook in their own juices. If you put the bangers in the oven, as the potatoes begin to simmer, all the food should be ready to eat at the same time.
Bangers cooked in the oven with onions, and then an added gravy, make lovely Bangers and Mash.
Bangers and Mash cooking tips
The mashed potato should not be sloppy and wet, nor should it be too dry. Perfect mashed potato has a little added milk, butter, salt and pepper. The amounts depend on your taste.
The bangers are traditionally stuck into a heap of mashed potato. Pile the mash on the person's plate. Stick the bangers in the mash vertically. Cover with lashings of onion gravy.
This dish has universal appeal. Children and adults alike, tend to love bangers and mash. It is quick and easy to shop for, prepare and cook. The bonus, of course, is that it is also a tasty dish.
You can add your own little touches, if you want to, but god old-fashioned bangers and mash was a simple dish. It helped to cheaply provide sustenance for poorer families and has remained a winter favourite, for all ages.
Like yogurt? Like really fresh yogurt? If so why not make your own?
We had a yogurt maker for many years but stopped using it sometime ago. It was cheap enough to operate but the yogurt always had an unpleasant gloopy sort of texture to it; well it did to me.
Having seen adverts for the Easi-Yo yogurt-maker on QVC I was tempted but never got around to purchasing the kit.
Then a little before Christmas I spotted one of the makers in Wilko with a variety of flavoured sachets of the powder to make the yogurt also available and thought what the hell.
Essentially the Easi-Yo yogurt-maker works like a flask.
They are available in a range of colours but I purchased a white one which also has some red on it and they are made out of durable plastic.
Inside there is a loose stand and a pot to make the yogurt.
You simply add the amount of water, usually 500 mils, to the inner pot before adding the yogurt powder to this.
Screw on the lid of this inner pot then give it a really good shake. Add a little more water to the recommended fill line and re-shake.
Now boil a kettle full of water to add to the outer flask. Make sure it is above the inner stand. That way when you add the inner pot full of the yogurt mixture the hot water will cover at least half of this.
Replace the Easi-Yo yogurt maker lid and leave to stand for between 8 to 12 hours, or overnight.
Once your yogurt is ready take the inner container out and put in the fridge to chill before eating.
Hints and tips
Our first attempt was still fairly runny after the 12 hours. So we had a re-think. It says use room temperature water to make the yogurt but our tap water was very cold as it is winter and drawn from outside.
So for the second attempt I added a little of the boiling water, only a spoonful or two, when topping the mixture up and it worked.
The product does have some information leaflets which may also help. But as a rule of thumb the yogurt will take longer to set in cold weather and shorter when it is warm.
Leave the yogurt too long and it will become almost sour cream, which you may or may not want. If the yogurt is not at this stage it will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.
Easi-Yo also sell small pots suitable for storing the product but you may find them or similar cheaper elsewhere.
Each sachet of the yogurt costs around £2.75 in the UK. So it is not cheap but it does contain tasty ingredients which are good for you.
You only add water so the other costs are minimal.
Better value multi-packs of the yogurts are sometimes available at QVC or other outlets.
Overall though if you like yogurt that tastes good and is good for you they represent great value.
As everyone knows, making Homemade Mashed Potatoes is easy isn't it?
Well it can be but it is also all too easy to end up with watery, runny potatoes or a pile of mash that is full of lumps. Getting your homemade mashed potatoes perfect each time is not difficult as long as you follow a few tried and tested tips With that in mind here is a simple 1-2-3 for getting perfect, homemade mashed potatoes every time.
You will need:
Homemade mashed potatoes usually take about 20 minutes to cook. With the preparation time and time allowed for the process of mashing allow around 25 minutes in total.
Keep this time in mind, so that you can make sure that the rest of your meal is ready at the same time. Mashed potatoes can be kept warm in the oven for a short time but, keep them warm for too long, and they will become dry and end up with a hard covering.
Make sure that you have a large enough pan to accommodate the potatoes, without water boiling or splashing over the sides. Cover the potatoes with cold water.
I like to season the water with a little salt but it is up to you. Homemade mashed potatoes will need some salt, at one stage or another, for them to be tasty. If you are cutting back on salt try a low sodium version or sea salt.
Cooking the potatoes
Getting ready to mash the potatoes
Mashing the potatoes
It is really up to you and how confident you feel. My Mum only ever used a large table fork to mash potatoes and she always made perfect mash. This does need a strong arm though.
Serve as soon as possible, so that your mashed potatoes are true perfection. Add a little garnish if preferred. The mash can be scooped onto the plate, squeezed through a muslin bag to make swirls or simply swirled with a fork. Again the choice is yours.
The right potatoes for the job
There are many varieties of potato. Some are just right for baking in the oven, others are more suitable for frying as chips. A few of the best varieties for making great, homemade mashed potatoes are:-
Nadine potatoes are a variety of potato which has a cream skin and cream flesh. It also has a firm, waxy texture. Nadine is suitable for:
Variations on plain mash
Once you have mastered making perfect basic, homemade mashed potatoes, you can experiment and use your flair.
This is an easy Flapjack recipe that will give you at least 12 bars of flapjack in no time at all. I usually double up the amount of ingredients and use a larger baking tray. It is up to you. It does store quite well in a cake or biscuit tin, that is if it is not consumed as soon as you have finished cooking. It certainly wafts pleasant aromas around the kitchen, that is you like sweet food.
For a 71/2 inch shallow baking tray you will need:
4ounces of butter or margarine. You can use a mixture of both
4 level tablespoons of Golden Syrup or as we often call it in the UK treacle. The pale coloured kind.
3ounces of sugar, granulated or brown sugar works well.
8ounces of rolled oats. I buy the large unbranded packs which are cheaper and less processed on the whole.
1/4level teaspoon of salt, adjust as suits.
The ingredients can be prepared easily in ten to 15 minutes and the cooking time is around 30 minutes. I use a fan assisted oven which is an absolute pain. It can mean baking burns around the edges unless I keep a close eye on it. For me the cooking time is half. You will know best what your oven is capable of.
The text book cooking time is 30 minutes with an oven setting of 335 degrees F or Gas Mark 3
History of the Victoria Sponge Cake
The clue is in the name of this cake. The Victoria in question is Queen Victoria who reigned as Queen of Great Britain, and the British Empire, for the best part of the nineteenth century. In fact she reigned from 1837 until 1901. Isn't it funny how the longest reigning British monarchs tend to be females?
Queen Victoria's reign was a golden age for some and there were many innovations. The Victoria sponge cake was invented as a sweet treat to accompany tea-time which was a new concept at this time. Anna, the Duchess of Bedford was one of Queen Victoria's ladies in waiting. She had this role for around ten years. During this time she found that, in the late afternoon, she would have a "sinking feeling" In other words she would feel very hungry.
This was said to be due to the timing of lunch and dinner.
The Duchess invented tea-time initially as just a time of the day when her servants would sneak her a few edible treats, to last her until the evening meal. Around 4pm they would provide the Duchess with a pot of tea and some bread snacks. In due course the Duchess expanded her tea parties so that they included guests, small cakes and petite sandwiches. By 1885 Queen Victoria was holding such parties herself and her guests were expected to wear formal dress. The Queen's sweet tooth soon guaranteed that the small cakes that were served became her favourite.
Fittingly these small cakes were called Victoria sponge cakes, and still are to this day.
The details below will make a cake that has ten to twelve average servings. Before you begin take out:
Pre-heat the oven to either 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Whilst the oven is warming line two 18cm or 7inch cake tins with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.
You can use a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar together if preferred. However, the traditional method is to use a large fork and plenty of elbow grease.
Once the butter and sugar are creamed, add the eggs. These need to be beaten in. However, add a little at a time to make sure that the mixture does not curdle. If there are any signs that it is doing so, add a little of the flour.
Add the rest of the flour by sifting it into the mixture. Fold the flour in using a large metal spoon. Traditionally folding flour into such a mixture needs a stirring motion with a large metal spoon or spatula. The stirring motion should be in the shape of a figure 8.
To see if the mixture is ready, lift a little onto the spoon and see how it drops into the bowl. When it is ready it has a dropping consistency.
If the mixture is too stiff add a little milk. Take care not to add too much though. Add a teaspoonful at a time.
This mixture then needs dividing as equally as possible between the two baking tins. Gently spread the surface of each with a flat bladed knife or a spatula. If preferred you can make one large, deep cake and slice it in half horizontally.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for between 20 to 25 minutes. Avoid opening the oven door unnecessarily or the cakes may fall flat, instead of rising.
Check that the cakes are cooked fully by inserting a skewer or long needle. If the skewer has some cake mixture stuck to it, the cake is not quite ready.
Allow the cakes to cool slightly for around 5 minutes and then turn them out onto a wire cooling tray. Whilst the cakes are cooling tackle the filling.
The cake filling: For a classic Victoria you will need strawberry jam and cream. More often than not a butter cream is used rather than a rich cream. However, the choice is yours. Once you have perfected making the basic cake, experiment with flavours and fillings.
Ingredients for a simple butter cream:
Adjust the above amounts according to taste.
How to make a simple butter cream:
Beat the butter until it has a soft and creamy consistency. Add the icing sugar a little at a time. As you add a little icing sugar beat the mixture well. It is a good idea to add the icing sugar in three separate lots. The beating will prevent the butter cream from becoming lumpy. Add a few drops of vanilla essence if desired, to enhance the flavour, and mix thoroughly by stirring.
Sandwiching the cakes together.
The usual method is to spread the jam on the underside of one cake and the cream on the underside of the other. The side of the cake that has the best appearance is the top or the bottom surface of the cake. When you have spread the jam and the cream onto the cakes, lightly press the two cakes together. Do not use too much pressure or the cake may look uneven and the filling will seep out of the sides.
Place a pretty paper doily onto an attractive plate. Centre the finished cake on this plate. Use a sieve or sugar shaker to sprinkle a dusting of icing sugar or caster sugar over the cake.
World War Two had been going for two years and rations were tight in 1941. This led to many UK householders growing what vegetables they could. Small gardens were utilised, large ornamental flower gardens were given over to vegetables and many people began to grow produce on council allotments.
To this day many people still grow an assortment of flowers and vegetables on allotments in the UK. They are harder to come by these days but still available.
Housewives in the UK needed every bit of cooking ingenuity to create tasty, healthy meals out of the meager rations allowed in war-time. What is it they say about necessity being the Mother of Invention? It proved just that. New recipes were created and more than 60 years later some are being used once again.Finances are tight again and value for money is paramount. Forget expensive frozen ready meals an cook for good health and wealth instead. choose homemade meals for value and taste.
How to make a war time classic - Woolton Pie
The recipe then says wash and peel the potatoes and carrots cutting them into slices the thickness of a penny. This is an old penny though which has not been in circulation for many years. I would say slim slices are what they mean.
Dry the washed sliced vegetables in a clean tea towel. Heat a little chicken fat in a frying pan and add the vegetable slices.
Next treat the mushrooms as above. Finely chop the onion and leek. Add all of this to the frying pan. Mix together and add the seasoning above or your own choices if preferred. Make sure you only lightly fry the vegetables.
Lightly grease a pie dish and add the whole mixture to it. Place the bundle of herbs in the middle of the pie. Moisten with a little giblet stock. Most of us would never use the giblets of a chicken for stock these days and many purchased chickens have them already removed. You could use a store bought vegetable or chicken stock though. Allow the mixture to cool.
Bake in the oven for 11/2 hours. Check your oven guide for the best cooking times, for a vegetable bake of this kind.
Eat and enjoy!