Bran Loaf

This recipe for Bran Loaf comes from my gran’s recipe book, but to me it’s synonymous with my mum because she used to make it regularly when I was a kid. It’s a ridiculously easy recipe to put together – the recipe is done by volume, and requires equal parts of each ingredient (except salt). Using 1 cup, or 250ml, of each gives a decent sized loaf.

  • 250ml self raising flour
  • 250ml caster sugar
  • 250ml dried fruit (e.g. sultanas)
  • 250ml All Bran breakfast cereal
  • 250ml milk
  • A pinch of salt

First up, put the All Bran, milk, sugar and fruit together in a big bowl and give it a stir. Leave this for at least 2 – 3 hours.

Next, stir in the flour and salt until you have an even mixture. Pour it into a loaf tin and bake in the oven. My gran’s recipe calls for a “moderate” oven for 1hr 15mins. We went with 180C fan oven and it took about 45 minutes.

You must eat this sliced and smeared with butter. It’s fabulous.

Chorley Cakes (v0.1)

My home town of Chorley is known for a particular food dish called the Chorley Cake. It’s closely related to the better known Eccles Cake which is a mixture of dried fruit, butter and sugar in puff pastry (I actually learnt how to make these as John Whaite’s “Perfecting your Pastry” class).

The Chorley cake differs in that it uses shortcrust pastry, and isn’t as sweet. Since it’s my home town I decided to give them a go, but I found it really hard to find a recipe. There are plenty of recipes online, but they all have quite substantial differences of opinion. Do you use plain or self raising flour? Do you add baking powder? Do you put an egg in the filling? Or spices such as nutmeg or allspice?

So I decided to have my own attempt at making these. It was a success of sorts – the end result was a really nice, buttery, fruity treat. But on the other hand… it wasn’t a Chorley cake. I think I need to chop my sultanas so that they get better distributed throughout.

So watch this space… I’m going to have another go and once I’ve perfected the recipe I’ll be posting it here!

Pineapple, Courgette and Walnut Loaf

The government says we should always try to get our five portions of fruit and veg every day, and Thrive on Five is a great book for finding tasty ways of doing just that. We’ve made one of their cakes before and it was fantastic, serving up 2 portions per slice. This cake only serves up 1 portion per slice but that’s still a portion we’d have missed out on otherwise!

The list of ingredients is pretty long, and grating courgette is tedious work. Beyond that though, it’s pretty simple. Mashing the pineapple in a mortar and pestle was a bit tedious, and the recipe was unclear as to whether the resulting juice should go in the cake or not (I assumed it should, and this seemed to turn out OK).

End result is a great looking and tasting loaf – it took a bit longer in the oven than expected and nearly burned so I had to cover it with tin foil for the last 10 minutes. It’s not often you can have a slice of cake and say it’s one of your 5 a day though, so the effort is definitely worth it.

Spiced Chicken Rice

We’re rounding out the working week with another recipe from the Sainsbury’s Homemade By You website. It’s another quick and easy recipe and takes next to no time to prepare.

Cut the chicken and fry in some oil, then add some chopped garlic and fry for a few more minutes before adding a teaspoon of turmeric and two teaspoons of garam masala. Next add some chopped leek and lettuce, plus some sultanas and chicken stock.

The recipe calls for it to be simmered with some frozen rice and frozen peas. We had the latter, but no frozen rice – we just boiled up some run-of-the-mill white rice and added that and it worked just fine.

End result was nice, but no particularly exciting. The spices added some flavour, but it wasn’t as satisfying as a true curry. It was a great mountain of food though and very filling.

Apple and Walnut Cake

Rounding out the week with a bit of baking from that old reliable, How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson.

It’s a bit of an unusual recipe, using walnut oil for the fat (although you can use olive oil) and then the resulting cake batter is very thick – and that’s before you add the diced apple, chopped walnuts and rum soaked sultanas. It takes quite a long time in the oven too – a whole hour.

The final cake is very nice, but I’m a bit concerned it could dry out as the week progresses. Fortunately we have ice cream in the freezer as an emergency “moist maker”.

Fruit Scones

The fruit cake I made a couple of weekends ago seemed to last forever, but sweet supplies were running low today and when I asked Mark what he wanted me to make, he said scones.

Despite their simplicity, I’ve never made scones before. I went for a rummage through our recipe books and turned up two recipes – Nigella Lawson has a recipe in How To Be A Domestic Goddess but I was put off it because it needed a few ingredients (namely Trex and cream of tartar) which we didn’t have in the house. On the other hand, Delia Smith has a scone recipe in Delia’s Cakes which is incredibly simple. Butter, flour, a little caster sugar, milk, and an egg. Other than some dried fruit (we had sultanas in the cupboard), that’s it.

It’s actually like making pastry – rub the butter and salt together to make breadcrumbs and then add the dried fruit before combining with beaten egg and a few tablespoons of milk. Roll it out, cut out some discs and then make a few more from the remainder. These only take 12–15 minutes in the oven, so you’ve got a fresh batch of scones before you realise it.

The resulting scones aren’t spectacular but they’re lovely and light and a real treat. Delia recommends eating them when they’re fresh – an instruction which we decided to follow to the letter.

Afghani Style Stew with Pine Nuts

Recipes have been a bit thin on the ground this week because I’ve been ill. I had an ill fated attempted at cooking a Nigel Slater lamb casserole earlier in the week and I’m going to blame the illness because it was a disaster – possibly the single blandest meal I’ve ever had.

I’m on the mend now, but feeling the need for something healthy so where else to turn but good old Thrive on Five? Five portions of veg in one meal must help get me on the road to recovery.

This recipe isn’t the easiest – get all the chopping and prepping done first because it’s a tight turnaround between adding each set of ingredients, and if you don’t keep stirring the pan then things will burn and taste bitter. I thought I’d managed it but got caught out and half way through the recipe I tasted it and thought it was disgusting.

By the time I got to the end though, things had improved. The yoghurt helped balance out the bitterness and the end result wasn’t half bad. Lots of vegetables and lots of spice. We also followed it with a dessert of cherries, strawberries and banana so I think that’s 8 portions of fruit and veg just at dinner time… I’ll be back to full health in no time.

Big Fruit Cake

This cake is another recipe one from Nigel Slater’s “Appetite”, and the book basically gives a rough guide to making a fruit cake and tips on adapting it as you see fit – it can even be the basis of your Christmas cake.

As such, the ingredients are a bit fluid but it’s about 1 kg of dried fruit (we used dried apricots, figs and prunes) plus 500g of sultanas. There’s also five large eggs, some flour, the juice and zest of a lemon and an orange, a few tablespoons of brandy, ground almonds, butter and brown sugar (we used muscovado).

It’s a long list of ingredients and it’s not cheap. It’s also not one for weight watchers – this cake is loaded with calories. It takes about 3 hours in the oven – one hour at 160C and two hours at 150C. Unfortunately mine burnt a little bit on the outside, so I’d recommend covering with foil for the last hour.

End result is tasty and enormous… this will keep us going for quite some time!

Apple Pie and Custard

I was wondering what to cook for our usual weekend “sweet treat” and Mark said he had a craving for apple pie. I was somewhat surprised to find that straightforward apple pie recipes are missing from most of our recipe books! There’s a recipe for “double apple pie” in Nigella’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess but that looked a like little bit of hassle. There’s a recipe in Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking but in the end we liked the look of the one in Appetite by Nigel Slater since it looked quite simple.

Actually though, it’s not an apple pie recipe. It’s a “hot fruit” pie and includes berries too. So, in the end we’ve had to improvise and I can hereby present you with the Two Hungry Boys Apple Pie recipe, as invented this afternoon!

The shortcrust pastry is made to Nigel Slater’s recipe – 180g of plain flour and 100g of fridge cold salted butter. Chop the butter into pieces and then rub them into the flour until you have something with the consistency of breadcrumbs. Then add a couple of tablespoons of very cold water and combine to form a dough. You may need a little bit more water, but it will only be a few drops at most. Roll into a ball, flatten a little, wrap in cling film and stick in the fridge for half an hour.

Meanwhile take 3 Bramley apples, peel and core them and chop into small bitesized pieces. Mix them with about 30g of sultanas and put them into your pie tin. Then mix three tablespoons of caster sugar with one half teaspoon of ground cinnamon and scatter the mixture over the fruit.

Take your pastry from the fridge and roll out so it’s just big enough to cover your pie dish. Stick a few knife cuts in the top and make sure it stays in place on top of the fruit by using a little bit of milk to stick it to the lip of the pie tin. You can also paint the top of the pie with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar so it goes nicely bronze in the oven.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes and then enjoy! We also had some homemade custard on the side from a Nigel Slater recipe. Heat 400ml of full fat milk in a saucepan with half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Just as it starts to come to the boil take it off the heat and leave to stand and cool a little. Meanwhile whisk 4 egg yolks and 4 tablespoons of caster sugar together. Pour the cooled milk into the egg and sugar mixture and mix well, then transfer to a pan and heat whilst stirring continuously and let it thicken. Don’t let it get too hot or it will curdle. When it’s the right consistency, transfer to a jug so it doesn’t carry on cooking.

End result was delicious and incredibly comforting!

Chocolate and Walnut Layer Cake

This week’s bake comes from a book we don’t use very often, Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake. It’s described as a chocoholic’s dream, and it certainly is… but it was a pain to make.

The cake is made first and isn’t too complicated, but after it’s baked you then need to leave it to cool before slicing into three layers. Mine could have done with rising a bit more which made the slicing a bit precarious.

You then make the icing and use it to ‘glue’ the layers back together before topping with some more icing. Given that I was making a stew and cobbler topping at the same time (see previous post!) I’d had enough at this point and so I skipped the final steps of grating chocolate over and dusting with icing sugar.

End result is very nice, but very very rich. We actually nearly made ourselves sick by cutting thick slices and then trying to finish them – the brandy in the icing doesn’t help!