Food

apple & pecan cake

There are currently 5 cakes in my house. 4 of them are actually layers for one massive cake, but still, it’s a lot of cake. The layer cake is a story for another day (*fingers are still crossed it all works out*) but this one is worth sharing now.

I had a few apples I needed to use up, and since every other ingredient is a pantry-staple, it’s the kind of cake that’s easy to throw together in a few minutes. It’s dense, sitting closer to a bread than you’d expect, and the almond really compliments the apples. While it’s not a flashy, decorative cake, it’s the kind that gets better as it sits on your counter and is perfect to serve with coffee.

2 apples, cored and chopped (approx 1/2 inch pieces)

1 tbs ground cinnamon

3 tbs sugar

chopped pecans (optional)

1 3/4 c (230g) plain flour

1/2 tbs baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 c oil

1 c sugar

2 tbs lemon juice

2 eggs

1-2 tsp almond extract

  • core and chop apples, add pecans and toss with cinnamon and 3 tbs sugar in a small bowl
  • preheat oven to 350/180
  • stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in large bowl
  • whisk together oil, sugar, lemon juice, eggs, and almond extract (make it as almond-y as you like)
  • mix wet ingredients into dry and mix till incorporated
  • here the mixture will look way to think, close to dough rather than batter, that’s okay!
  • in a greased and lined loaf pan, layer half the batter, then the apples, then the other half of the batter over top (the top half of the batter may be difficult to spread, doesn’t have to be perfect!)
  • bake for 45 minutes to 1 hr (when checking, make sure you test the batter all the way to the bottom, making sure the batter underneath the apples is cooked)
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Food

Brothy Cannellini Soup

Even in July, I crave soup. All seasons are soup season. It’s comforting and easy, and I love foods eaten out of bowls. British summers are mild and cool in the evenings, meaning a light and brothy soup like this works even in the middle of summer. This whole recipe is pantry ingredient friendly, and was the result of wanting to change the beans-on-toast from last week into a different meal the next day. This would also be great with some small pasta or hearty greens added if you have them around.

Brothy Cannellini Soup

1/2 of the beans-on-toast from last week (alternately, plain cannellini beans, you may need to season this simple broth a little more since the beans won’t already be seasoned)

a small onion, peeled and cut in half

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed

a few sprigs of tyme

1/2 tsp dried rosemary

1/2 parmesan rind (the hard bit at the end of a slice of parm that you should absolutely be saving)

1 veg stock cube

6 c water

  • in a pot, combine all the ingredients except the beans
  • bring to a simmer and leave for about an hour, longer if you have it
  • pull out the garlic cloves, which should be soft, and smash them, adding the paste back to the pot
  • strain broth, discarding the remains
  • if adding pasta, return to heat and add here and cook until the pasta is al dente, or add hearty greens and wilt in residual heat
  • add beans, and season to taste (salt and pepper, I added chili paste for some more heat)
  • serve with bread and a squeeze of lemon juice

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Food

(Cannellini) Beans on Toast

Beans are a truly amazing food, and while black beans will (probably) always be my favourite and british baked beans my least favourite, there is room in the middle for a lot of others. The can of cannellini beans that became these meals sat in my cabinet for months, after I read this Smitten Kitchen recipe that looked like an ideal lunch. However, finding artichokes is much harder than I’d like, so the recipe took a different turn when I got around to making it.

(Cannellini) Beans On Toast

1 can of cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)

4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

3 tbs olive oil

red pepper flakes

salt

a few handfuls of kale – toss in olive oil and salt/pepper, roast in the oven at about 375f for 10 minutes or until crispy

slices of baguette, toasted

  • heat olive oil in a small pan on medium heat, adding garlic and red pepper flakes, cooking until just turning golden (do not look away, garlic is fickle and will burn if you give it the chance)
  • add in rinsed beans, stirring until warmed through
  • pull off heat, salt to taste
  • top bread with beans and roasted kale, add a grating of parm is you like

I used the second half of these beans to make a very easy soup the next day, since this makes 2-3 portions – that easy soup will be up next week!

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Food

spinach and cheddar strata

you know the last like 1/4 of a loaf of bread, the nice kind you bought for pasta or made but didn’t get around to eating before it got just a little to stale and hard to eat normally? this a constant problem in my life and I have settled on a solution that is nearly as easy as forgetting to eat the bread and results in a great brunch/lunch/dinner because this is one of those foods that has no set time of day and gives you amazing leftovers.

while you could easily add lots more veg and probably some kind of meat to this, this version is very much a clean-out-the-fridge kind of meal than a detailed version. that does not prevent it however, from being incredibly delicious

spinach & cheddar strata

3(ish) cups of cubed dried out bread

1/2 onion white onion diced (aka the onion sitting in the back of your fridge)

1 tbs butter

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp oregano

most of a bag of spinach (probably about 3 cups?)

1 cup grated cheddar

1/2 grated parmesan

1 cup milk

3-4 eggs

2 tbs wholegrain mustard

  • saute onion in butter until soft, add salt, pepper, and oregano
  • add spinach, cook until soft and remove from heat
  • grease baking dish with butter
  • layer half the bread along the bottom of the dish
  • top with the spinach and onion mixture
  • top with half the cheese mixture
  • place the rest of the bread on top
  • top with the rest of cheese
  • beat together eggs, milk and mustard, pour over dish
  • let soak for about 6+ hours, or overnight
  • bake for about 40-50 minutes, at 350F/180C
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Food

blood orange curd

Apparently, lots of people hate the word ‘curd’, but since people also hate the word ‘moist’ I’ve decided to stop listening when people hate the way words sound. Languages are strange, yes, though I will agree its strange because it comes from/means coagulated milk and unless we’re talking about butter there is no milk in this kind of curd. Cheese curds obviously, but those are also delicious. Curds of all kinds are welcome here.

I have a deep and longtime love of lemon curd. I’ve made it many times over the years, given it as gifts, eaten it with most imaginable pairings (and with a spoon), and my favourite pie is made with it. But after falling in love with blood oranges this year, I wondered why I had never really had much less made any variation on the traditional lemon. So after many a google and search through my favourite recipe blog, I found enough varieties to get comfortable with the kinds of changes involved in switching out the citrus.

If you’ve ever made curd before, you know its much easier than it sounds. And varying the fruit involved is just as easy – I think it comes down to adjusting the sugar ratios to make sure you have the right flavour at the end. After all, not many fruits are quite as sour as lemons. So after a few batches, here a not too sweet quick and easy blood orange curd! This makes essentially a personal sized amount, as in you could eat this before it goes off on your own, about 1 1/2 cups I think.

blood orange (or any citrus) curd

5 egg yolks (I always save the egg whites and only use them about half the time)

3/4c sugar

zest and juice of 4-5 blood oranges

7tbs cold butter, cubed

  • zest and juice oranges
  • in a small saucepan simmer juice until reduced by about half
  • Over a double boiler (heat proof bowl sitting over not touching a pot of boiling water) whisk together eggs, sugar, zest, and concentrated juice
  • add butter cutes one at a time, whisking until combined before adding the next
  • whisk constantly for approximately 10 minutes until thickened
  • strain if desired to remove zest and any possibly cooked egg (I never do, but it may remove some bitterness from the zest)
  • store in air tight jars, refrigerated
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Food

strawberry and rhubarb crumble bars

brought to you by my love of not-too-sweet desserts and El’s grandmother’s garden, which provided rhubarb when no store near me had any.

all my favourite desserts are probably fruit based (I’m turning into my mother and find things too sweet regularly) and rhubarb is probably the absolute best. It’s not very sweet and it has the most beautiful color. It holds its texture well, giving a little bit of bite. These bars get most of their sweetness from strawberries, plus a some sugar to hold it all together. the measurements for the fruit really are a loose suggestion, you could easily go over on either depending on what you have around – I finished off the container of strawberries putting it closer to 1 2/3 c in the end since I didn’t have a lot of rhubarb.

strawberry & rhubarb crumble bars

1 1/4 c rolled oats

3/4 c flour

1/4 c brown sugar (I used light but I think dark would be lovely here)

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

6 tbs melted butter or refined coconut oil (easily switched vegan option)

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch (aka cornflour in the UK)

2 tbs lemon juice

1 c diced rhubarb

1 1/2 c strawberries, sliced or diced

2 tsp granulated sugar

  • preheat oven to 375F/180C
  • mix oats, flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon, stir in melted butter until clumps form
  • set aside 1/2 c of crumble mixture
  • press remaining crumble into baking pan, probably an 8×8 is best
  • bake for about 10 minutes to firm up the bottom crust, not necessary but I think they hold up a little better as bars this way
  • while that’s baking, chop up your fruit, divide in half
  • toss half of the cut fruit with lemon juice, cornstarch, and 1 tsp sugar
  • remove tray from oven, top with coated fruit, then plain fruit. sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp sugar
  • cover with remaining oat topping
  • bake for 30-40 minutes, until bubbling and crisp on top

they hold their crisp best in the fridge

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Food

cinnamon and spice candied pecans

I’ve made six batches of candied pecans in the past two days, through which this Alton Brown recipe morphed and changed to meet my mothers taste in spicy-yet-sweet pecans. This final version contains a fully toasted nut, a pretty deep collection of spice with a smoky kick to it, and a caramel-y coating that seals it all together. It’s definitely inspired by the above recipe, but following that one resulted in under seasoned pecans that I can’t suggest.

These are a good make ahead gift *cough cough wedding prep* and make the house smell amazing so would be a great appetizer. If you aren’t eating them right away, be sure to pack away into as airtight a container as you can find after they dry – humid weather is your enemy (I mean it always is really, but especially in regards to candy). If you need them to dry faster or they come out a little wetter than you’d like, let them dry out in the oven at about 175 on a sheet try for about 30-45 minutes.

cinnamon and spice candied pecans

1 1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp – 1 tsp cayenne pepper (you will feel the heat from this, so adjust to your taste!)

1 tsp salt

1 lb or 3.4 c pecan halves

5 tbs butter, cut into pieces

1/2 c brown sugar (light or dark)

2 tbs water

  • prep all your ingredients before putting anything on the stove – when this recipe starts going it gets fast, and you don’t have time to be cutting your butter! Also lay out a long strip of parchment paper on a stable flat surface, you’ll lay your pecans here to dry
  • in a large (like seriously, as big as you have) cast iron skillet over medium heat, begin toasting your nuts. They’ll start to smell like warm pecans and that’s when you know it’s time to move on – but remember, nuts burn fast so as soon as you start to smell it begin the next step, the nuts will keep toasting
  • sprinkle in your spice mixture (that you already mixed together in a bowl, remember) and stir through the nuts. The spices will also begin to toast, and you’ll be able to smell it. This is where you have to start moving quickly
  • once you can smell the spices, add in your butter pieces and stir through until melted and coating all the pecans
  • add in your brown sugar and stir to coat
  • the sugar will have begun to melt, but to help it coat the pecans you want to add a splash of water – it will sizzle and bubble, so watch your hands. Add the water slowly, stirring continuously, and let it coat the pecans. You may not need all the water, or you may feel you need a little more.
  • let the sugar melt completely and cover the pecans, stirring
  • when coated, dump pecans and caramel onto the waiting parchment paper, and spread out with your wooden spoon to separate. I wouldn’t worry too much about a little overlap, and the puddle of spicy-sugar won’t bother anyone either!
  • when dry and cool to the touch, package in airtight containers.
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