Cider and Five Spice Bundt Cake

Last week’s bundt was a hit, so we decided to get our money’s worth from the bundt tin and make another. It’s another Nigella recipe this time, but it comes from her most recent book, Simply Nigella.

The ingredients for this cake are, well, to be frank, a bit weird. Cider? Chinese five spice? And it’s described as a ginger like cake but there’s no dried ginger in here, only some fresh.

The first step is mixing the wet ingredients – Nigella uses vegetable oil, but I only had olive oil to hand and used that. This is then mixed with treacle and brown sugar, plus the cider which has been opened in advance to remove some of its fizz. Deliciously, we only needed half the bottle of cider so the other was a mid-afternoon treat! Mixing these ingredients is touch – the treacle kept getting clogged up in my whisk but eventually it dissolved… sort of! It was a bit of a weird consistency but seemed OK. Also, I should mention that I didn’t have enough treacle and so replace the last 100g with an equivalent weight of golden syrup.

In a separate bowl you then mix the dry ingredients and then pour them into the wet ones, beating all the time to try and avoid any clumps of flour. The resulting batter is very runny but it smells amazing.

After about 45 minutes in the oven the cake emerged and it’s utterly delicious. Kind of like a rich ginger cake, but with a different level of spice – quite similar to German Lebkuchen actually. We’ve found its dense consistency goes really well with double cream!

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Making a bundt cake recently reminded me of what a wonderful book Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen is, so I went rummaging through it for recipes which I’d still not tried and found this one. I was attracted to it because the picture in the book shows the meal simmering in a yellow casserole dish very similar to the one we own!

The recipe is in two parts – making the sauce is pretty simple because you just blitz some veg in a food processor and then gently fry it for a bit before adding a tin of plum tomatoes and some water and letting it simmer.The rest of the ingredients go to making the turkey meatballs which require very little effort. I’d forgotten how easy Nigella’s recipes can be!

You then gently place the meatballs into the liquid (they pretty much float on top) and let them cook whilst the sauce simmers. Mine took a bit longer than expected because I had halved quantities, but had to use the full amount of water to ensure there was enough liquid for the meatballs to float in. It reduced down to a really tasty tomato sauce, although the meatballs weren’t the most exciting things I’ve eaten. Some pasta on the side and this made for an easy and tasty supper – and relatively low fat with the turkey mince, too.

Roast Chicken in Turmeric, Paprika & Cumin with Corn Cakes and Mashed Avocados

The list of ingredients here is pretty long but a lot of it is storecupboard stuff – and if you’ve cooked any number of Nigella Lawson recipes you’ll probably have most of the rarer items anyway (I’m looking at you, polenta). The recipe itself is from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand.

The recipe is actually three dishes. It looks like it takes a lot of time and preparation but actually it’s really simple. First you make the batter for the corn cakes, which basically means put the ingredients in a food processor and blitz them together.

Next you make a spice mix for the chicken, rub it all over and bang it in the oven for 45 minutes.

When the chicken is nearly ready, mash the avocado with a fork and add sherry vinegar and lime juice. Then fry your pre-prepared batter in a pan to make your corn cakes and serve the whole thing up.

I think I under-did the seasoning in the corn cakes and chicken, and overdid it with the sherry vinegar in the avocados. But the overall result was highly impressive. Presenting three home made items on a plate for dinner makes you look like some kind of domestic wizard!

Carrots with Lime and Thyme and Salmon

This recipe is another of the ones you’ll find in John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. The five ingredients are really simple – carrots, onion, fresh thyme, a lime and some salmon fillets (plus the usual seasonings and oil).

It takes quite a while to cook because the carrots need to roast in the oven for an hour before you add the salmon on top and cook for a further 15 minutes. We also did some new potatoes to serve this up with. To be honest, I thik my carrots could have used a little longer in the oven but that’s probably because I used regular carrots rather than baby carrots as John suggests.

End result was very tasty – the lime and thyme combination works really well with the carrots. Also the whole dish basically just uses one roasting tray so there’s very little washing up afterwards.

Maple & Pecan Bundt Cake

Mark’s been hankering for a bundt tin for quite some time but we never seem to see many of them in the stores here in the UK (or at least, not attractive ones… most seem pretty plain, and surely the whole point of a bundt tin is that it should be highly decorative?).

Mark’s done plenty of research in the meantime and come to the conclusions that a) Nordic Ware bundt tins seem to get the best reviews and b) they’re more expensive than most others. So we would often hunt through stores like HomeSense in the hope that they may have some in stock – they never did, until this weekend! Suddenly we were spoilt for choice and came home with a new cake tin to use! I can’t find the exact one on Amazon, but this one is pretty similar.

The first recipe book I had to hand was good old Nigella Kitchen, and it has a recipe for a maple and pecan bundt. They’re basically two of my favourite things so it seemed a no brainer to make this one!

The ingredient list isn’t too exotic – creme fraiche, pecans and maple syrup were the only things we didn’t already have in the cupboard or fridge. The method is a bit fiddly though – basically you need three bowls on the go.

In the first you mix butter and flour with a fork to create a kind of crumble. To this you add chopped pecans, a teaspoon of cinnamon and some maple syrup, then mix it all together with a fork to create the most amazing smelling mixture – this is your filling.

Next mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder in a second bowl.

In a third bowl, cream butter and caster sugar together. Add a tablespoon of the flour mixture to this and beat in, followed by an egg, then another tablespoon of flour, and then another egg. Beat it together after each addition, and then add the rest of the flour. The resulting mixture is pretty stiff so you may get tired when doing this! Finally, the creme fraiche gets added to this.

To assemble, pour about 2/3 of the mixture into the bundt tin. It’s a thick mixture, so you can then make a bit of a “trough” into which you pour the nutty filling. The important thing is that the filling shouldn’t touch the sides of the tin – you want in encased within the cake. You use the rest of the mixture to cover it up, and then bake in the over for 30 – 40 minutes. Once it’s out and cooled you dust it with a bit of icing sugar. It looks so pretty, Nigella herself even retweeted our photo!

A tip from Nigella – she suggests oiling the inside of the bundt tin first and standing it upside down over some newspaper whilst you get on with the rest. This way it’s oiled, but not too oily (it seemed to work for us, the cake came out of the tin really easily).

The result cake is lovely – the sponge itself is fairly plain and light, but the sweet and nutty filling gives a great contrast. Delicious and beautiful!

Chicken, Leek and Cider Pie

You may have noticed that we’ve been enjoying a few pies of late, and when our love of pastry called this time we turned to John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. It’s been a while since we cooked anything from this one, but this recipe was a perfect one to get us back on track.

This recipe takes quite a while though, and that’s even with shop bought puff pastry! First you have to cook the chunks of chicken, then set them to one side. Next you cook the leeks slowly in butter (about 20 minutes), and then return the chicken to the pan and add the cider which then simmers for about 40 minutes… a bit less for us though because I left the heat too high!

Next you have to let the filling cool a little before mixing in some creme fraiche and assembling your pie. John goes for individual pies with pastry lids – we just made a single giant pie and, as ever, made sure the pastry was all the way around and not just on top. A pastry lid alone is not enough!

The end result was utterly delicious. There’s a nice combination of sweet (from the caramelised leeks and cider) and tart/savoury (from the creme fraiche).

Whilst I probably prefer Diana Henry’s bird pie, this is much easier because it doesn’t require you to roast a chicken in advance. It’s not a quick recipe, but it requires a lot less forward planning… especially because the ingredient list is so straightforward.

Meatballs with Sweet Potatoes and Couscous

When is a one pot not a one pot? Probably when it also requires multiple bowls, as is the case for this recipe from One Pot Wonders. Don’t get me wrong, this is a nice recipe and we really enjoyed it, but there’s a certain level of hassle involved which I wasn’t expecting given which book it came from.

It’s important to follow the steps in sequence, which begin with preparing the couscous. I thought this was too early, but some of the couscous is then used in the meatballs (a breadcrumb substitute I guess). With preparing the couscous and the meatballs plus the vegetable preparation and the roasting tray, I felt that the title of one pot wasn’t really deserved here. Hell, it’s not even a pot, it’s a roasting dish.

Such quibbles aside though, the washing up that was generated was easy to clean and the meal went down well. I was a bit worried that the couscous would be stone cold but it retained enough heat and absorbed some more from the rest of the dish.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chunk Cookies

A chance trip into Waitrose to pick up some milk saw me grabbing a copy of their free weekend magazine, and in amongst various articles and recipes I spotted this one for Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chunk cookies. Since we had some peanut butter left over from the recent chicken and peanut stew we made, this looked like a good opportunity to use up some left overs.

The ingredient list is actually really simple, and the only thing we needed to buy in was a bag of chocolate chips. The method is incredibly simple too – I won’t repeat it here, just follow the link above. The only thing that’s a little tricky is shaping the balls of mixture since it’s a little on the sticky side but it’s not too bad and certainly doesn’t make much mess. They also take no time at all to prepare and cook, so are perfect if you need to produce something at short notice.

I’ve never really had much luck with making cookies and biscuits (except for that shortbread!) but these worked out incredibly well. The resulting cookies have that perfect combination of firmness and softness, and the peanut butter and chocolate flavouring is wonderful. It required all our willpower not to eat these in one sitting!

Mushroom Pappardelle

This was a quick, throw together easy supper found in the September chapter of Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. It’s really easy to make. You just fry the mushrooms in some butter and olive oil and once they’ve browned add some chopped garlic and parsley. Finally you add some cooked pappardelle and sprinkle the parmesan in, warm it all through and serve.

End result was… meh. I wasn’t overly impressed. I thought that there was too much pasta and not enough of everything else. Mark seemed to like it, but afterwards it just felt like I’d eaten a massive pile of carbs (well, I suppose I had!).

Chicken with Lemon, Anchovies and Rosemary

We’re back to Diana Henry’s fabulous A Bird in the Hand tonight. This book has been an absolute godsend; I don’t think there’s been a single “miss” from all the recipes we’ve cooked from it so far… and we were delighted to discover this week that she has a new book coming out (“Simple“)in a few days. If you’re curious, at the time of writing there’s a free Amazon Kindle sampler of the book.

By far the biggest question of the evening though is why Tesco feels the need to put a security tag on a £2.25 pack of chicken thighs? I set the alarm off when leaving the shop because I’d used a self service till… whoops!

It’s another easy one to cook, following a fairly regular pattern of Diana’s chicken recipes – brown the thighs first, set to one side and cook the vegetables. Then we add liquid (vermouth) and the chicken, and pop it in the oven (uncovered this time).

The end result was really tasty, but the plate was less interesting than planned because I’d intended to use potatoes as carb but we didn’t have any in, so I went with brown rice instead. I then decided to do some peas on the side, only to discover we were out of those as well. Time for another supermarket shop I think, but I need to watch out for those security tags this time.