Category Archives: Sweet Things

Birthday Bean Feast

img_6048

Birthday cakes are obligatory in our household. When the kids were small they would pour over the ‘Special Occasions’ cookbook and request cakes in the shape of houses, robots  and trains. The trains involved swiss rolls which made excellent wheels. There was also the ’emergency’ cake which was an upended tub of ice cream embellished with chocolate buttons, smarties and candles – a guaranteed success  which was always eaten. The ingredients didn’t get  much scrutiny unlike today where we are super aware of what we eat. I now realise why all the kids were stuck to the walls at the parties – all that sugar and fizz….

The birthday boys request this time was for a cake with lots of different layers and flavours – you can tell our kids grew up in a restaurant, they are very good at ordering food – and with all the dietary restrictions of the gathered party people the cake needed to be gluten and dairy free.

Inspired by Emma Galloways black bean torte I  made a bean and lentil cake  Beginning with a black bean and chocolate sponge  followed by butter beans and beetroot for a pink layer and red lentils, turmeric and orange for a golden yellow layer.

img_6037

It worked a treat. The layers were sandwiched with coconut cream and chilled in the fridge

img_6044

– before being enrobed in Chocolate ganache.

img_6057

The cake looked like top hat and tasted delicious – everyone enjoyed it and there were no’ ughh’ lentils or beans comments, in fact it would have been difficult to name the ingredients

img_6074

A mighty cake!

 

 

 


The Blackberries are Back!

IMG_5664

This recipe is a good excuse to go for a walk. The hedgerows are full of ripening blackberries, here in West Cork

IMG_5677

I have been traipsing around with my little helper trying to fill a little bucket with blackberries so that we can make blackberry and apple muffins. Each day there are more ripe blackberries than the day before and we are just getting to the stage where we find enough berries to actually arrive home with some in the bucket.

I have two good tips if you’re in a position to go picking. One is to go armed with a dock leaf as there seem to be as many blasted nettles as blackberries and the other is to feed the little helpers a snack before setting out. This definitely ups the odds of arriving home with berries in the bucket.

It’s apple time here too and we have a bumper harvest of apples this year so I have been playing with recipes to combine the two.

IMG_5679

One of the most successful is this ancient recipe that our neighbour cut out of a magazine and gave to my Mum when I was little. It’s so ancient that the original recipe is in pounds and ounces and uses margarine which very few people bake with anymore.

It’s one of those recipes where you don’t need many ingredients nor do you have to do a lot to make the cake. It doesn’t even need any machinery although a food processor does speed things up.

I’ve wiggled the measurements, exchanged butter for the margarine and added in some blackberries. The result got scoffed which is always a good sign!

IMG_5654

Blackberry and Apple Cake

 

450g cooking apples

150g blackberries

300g flour

1tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

200g butter – diced

125g caster sugar

3 eggs

 

 

Pre heat the oven 180c

Prepare a 24cm spring form cake tin. Line the base with parchment paper

Weigh out the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Put into a big bowl or a food processor and add the cubed butter.

Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips or pulse buzz in the food processor until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. If you have used a processor now is the time to tip the mix into a bowl.

Peel and core the apples and cut into a small dice. Mix the apples and blackberries gently through the flour mix.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk together then pour into the big bowl and gently mix everything together with a metal spoon. Do not overmix. Tip into the prepared tin and gently even out the top.

Bake for 50 minutes. Poke a sharp knife into the cake and if it comes out clean the cake is ready. If the knife is sticky cook for another five minutes and try again.

Dredge the top of the cake with caster sugar whilst it is still hot.

Delicious, and the cake will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box.


Beetroot Scoffins

Our beetroots loved the July rain, revelled in the humidity, didn’t care when the wind was cold and now they are ready to eat. Soldiers, everyone of them and they certainly cheer things up on a rainy day.The beetroot and chia seed muffins I made today were luminous pink. Guaranteed to bring a smile to your face whatever the weather and very easy to make.

IMG_4159

I buzzed some cooked beetroot to a puree, mixed it with yoghurt eggs and coconut oil

IMG_4153

then folded it into the dry ingredients.

IMG_4154

Spooned the mix into a muffin tin and hey presto, thirty minutes later – Pink muffins!!!
They weren’t only good looking, they were delicious.

IMG_4156

I took some to the shop and they flew out the door.

Here’s the recipe if you fancy trying it. It’s gluten free and could be dairy free if you wanted, just swop the yoghurt for soy yoghurt

Beetroot and Chia Seed Scoffins

200g cooked and peeled beetroot
250mls natural yoghurt
140g rice flour
170g coconut flour
1tbs chia seeds
1 and a half tsp baking powder
half tsp baking soda
half tsp salt
2 eggs
150g caster sugar
120mls coconut oil

Pre heat the oven 180c

Put the beetroot into a food processor and puree to a smooth paste.
Add the yoghurt, eggs and coconut oil to the beetroot then buzz everything together.
Put the rice flour, coconut flour, baking powder, bread soda, salt sugar and chia seeds into a large bowl. Pour the beetroot mix on top then mix everything together. Put a paper muffin case in each hole in the muffin tin. Spoon a generous tablespoon of the mix into each muffin case then divi up any left overs.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Stick a sharp clean dry knife into the centre of one of the muffins to test for doneness. If it comes out clean it’s ready.
Cool before eating.


Cooking on the Green Line

 

IMG_1941

Yesterdays expedition was slightly hairy.

Kamal is involved in an initiative called ‘Make Food Not War” and today he took us to cook with war widows in Tripoli .

IMG_1995

The idea is to bring people together through food regardless of religion and equip them with some skills that so that they can make a living. The group of women involved come from both sides of the warring factions and working together gives them common ground. We set off early this morning through the insane traffic  heading north out of Beirut. The roads are pretty much a free for all. There are very few road markings and basically all the cars go full pelt honking and weaving in and out all frantically trying to make progress.

IMG_1896

We stopped at a fish market on the way to pick up some fish for Sally to smoke – beautiful bright fish, bonito, tuna, parrot fish, garfish, sea bass, some of it still twitching. Sally selected a the sea bass,  a garfish and something we’re still not sure the name off.  The coast road is the main artery through Lebanon which is a surprisingly small country – no bigger than Co.Cork . It doesn’t look that small on the atlas  and of course it’s a completely different shape, long and skinny.   The closer we got to Tripoli the more road blocks we passed through and Tripoli itself is something of a full on war zone with fully manned tanks, machine guns and sand bags. The buildings are covered in bullet holes and some aren’t there any more at all. The building where the cooking initiative is held is right on the Green Line. Smack bang in the middle of the troubled zone. Luckily it was quiet today but it definitely added a certain edge, not our usual cooking location.

IMG_1939

The doors were manned by armed soldiers and we were welcomed in and taken upstairs to meet the ladies.who were in the middle of making “maamoul’ sweet pastries to celebrate Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday which is this weekend. There was an enormous lump of dough on the counter and dates and nuts were being pounded to make the fillings.

IMG_1911

They took a break to check out Sally’s fish smoking lesson.

IMG_1906

 

They found the idea of smoking fish very strange.The idea of cooking fish in smoke didn’t appeal at all and they were looking at each other sideways, very sceptical. Sally, being the genius that she is at her craft soon had them filleting and brining then placing the fish on her jerry-rigged smoking gadget. Fifteen minutes later when the fish was cooked they were persuaded to have taste and  were absolutely amazed. Next thing the plate was empty!

IMG_1931

I got stuck into the cookie department. The cookies are made with fine semolina, butter and rose or orange water kneaded together with a little dried yeast until smooth then filled with either dates mixed with a little coconut and butter or walnuts or pistachios mixed with a little sugar syrup and rosewater.

IMG_1916

There’s definitely knack to assembling them and my first couple of attempts were rejected but once I got the hang of it it was full steam ahead

IMG_1914

 

Here’s the recipe to make quite an enormous amount. Scale it down if you don’t want to supply a market stall!

2.5kg fine semolina

1 kg butter

2 cups sugar

2 cups rosewater

2 cups orange blossom water

1 tsp dried yeast

Put the semolina on the counter, chop up the butter into small cubes, add the dried yeast and sugar and knead everything together. Gradually add the rose water and orange blossom water and keep kneading until silky. Leave covered with cling film for 2 hours

For the fillings

mix chopped walnuts with some sugar syrup and rosewater

chopped pistachios with sugar syrup and orange blossom

Chopped dates with a little desiccated coconut, a little butter and sugar syrup. This needs to be pounded to a smooth paste.

Next take little walnut balls of the dough and press them into a circle in the palm of your hand. Put a little spoonful of filling in the middle and carefully pull the sides together to close the parcel. The little parcels are then put into moulds and press them to fit snugly them tip them off and rap them sharply to tip them out.

IMG_1917

Bake at 180c until lightly golden. Let them cool off then dredge them with icing sugar.

IMG_1942