Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Apple and Cinnamon Cake

We have a ton of apples again this year at the allotment, part of one of our trees has collapsed due to the weight of apples and our trees sag across the path blocking people's way with apples. I am pretty sure everyone at the allotment thinks we are useless, we haven't been as much as I'd like this year, but I still love it.

Our allotment is 'wild' in style. I'm very tidy in the rest of my life, constantly picking things up, cleaning, reordering, stacking, straightening... I think you need to be like that to run an efficient kitchen... but it's nice to have a place in my life that is just a bit messy and free and still beautiful at the same time. I don't care if you can't get down some of the paths, or that you have to crawl under the apple trees to get in. It is overgrown with apple boughs, flowers, vines, blackberries, honeysuckle, creeping nasturtiums, huge fennel plants that have gone to seed, but I personally think that that is the beauty of it. It's not like it's a big patch of nettles; but I'll await my next warning email because I don't think the allotment committee agree...

Allotment Apple Tree - The Grazer

Apple and Cinnamon Cake Recipe - The Grazer

I think I've been asked for this recipe more than any other recently, pretty much everyone who has ordered it at Cook House wants to know how to make it so I thought I'd better get on with writing it up.

Incidentally it is the cake that a woman once described on Facebook as 'so dry it was impossible to swallow'. She laid into me in front of lots of customers at Cook House when I had just opened, I'll never forget it. She said she would never be back, thankfully. I'd also like to add that she ate every last (dry) crumb of her cake. Thankfully everyone else seems to like it a lot. I suggest you try it and see for yourself...

Get your cake tin ready and lined and preheat the oven to 160˚C.

Peel one large cooking apple... I'm going to have to make a lot of cakes to get through all the allotment apples! and cut it into thick slices.

Melt 150g of butter in a pan on a gentle heat. Then add 225g of self raising flour to a bowl, followed by 225g of caster sugar, a teaspoon of baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. Give all the dry stuff a good mix and make sure there are no clumps. Beat 2 eggs in another bowl and add a dash of almond essence, about 1/4 teaspoon.

Then add the eggs and the melted butter to the dry mix and quickly bring it together using a spatula, it is almost like a batter when it is fully mixed.

Apple and Cinnamon Cake Recipe - The Grazer

Add 3/4 of the mix to a lined cake tin and spread it out. It might seem like there's not much of the mixture to you, but don't worry, that's how it is meant to be. Then add a layer of apples to the top of the mix, covering the whole lot. Then add the remaining 1/4 of the mix to the middle, on top of the apples. Then quickly pop it in the oven and bake for 50 minutes.

Sprinkle the top with a tiny bit of sugar when it comes out, it will smell amazing, all being well. The batter like mix means you almost get a buttery crust to the edges of the cake, with the middle staying warm and crumbly with soft layers of sweet apple. It is very good still warm from the oven with a dollop of cream, and will keep well for a couple of days in an airtight tin if you're feeling restrained and don't eat it all at once...

Apple and Cinnamon Cake Recipe - The Grazer

Apple and Cinnamon Cake Recipe - The Grazer

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Spiced Goat Mince Meatballs in a Roast Tomato & Pepper Sauce

These meatballs were just a bit off the cuff on a Friday night faffing about in the kitchen; I had a packet of goat mince that needed cooking and made it up as I went along. They turned out to be an absolute triumph, and one that I can't wait to make again. I flavoured the meatballs with fennel and coriander seeds, roast them and tossed them in a roast tomato and red pepper sauce, it was so delicious! If you haven't had much goat in the past I would highly recommend it, not as strong as lamb or beef, just a really delicate beautiful flavour, try it out...

Start with the tomatoes, I used a packet of regular sized vine tomatoes. Cut them into quarters and pop them into a baking tray, add a generous splash of olive oil, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of sugar and some black pepper, give it a good mix and then pop it in the oven at 200˚C for 30 minutes, keep an eye on them as all tomatoes differ. You want it to start to colour and most of the water to cook away, until they start to look a bit sticky and caramelised. When they are ready tip them into a little blender and wizz them up until smooth, they almost become creamy. It's my new favourite way of making a tomato sauce, especially while tomatoes are in season I much prefer this roast fresh tomato method rather than using tins.

While you are waiting for the tomatoes you can start the meatballs. I used one slice of stale brown sourdough bread, crusts removed, wizzed up into a fine crumb. Put the bread crumbs into a bowl and added a splash of milk and leave them to soak.

Toast a teaspoon of coriander seeds and half a teaspoon of fennel seeds in a small pan until you can smell them, then pop them into a pestle and mortar and grind until you get a rough powder.

I used 400g of goat meat for 2 people, this was quite generous, and would feed 3 easily! I get my goat meat from The Goat Company who trade at Jesmond Food market, on the third Saturday of the month. Get a few packs and keep it in the freezer, it really is such delicious meat.

Crumble the mince into a big bowl and add the spices. Then add half a finely chopped onion, a grated clove of garlic, a big pinch of maldon sea salt, some black pepper and the bread crumbs; and mix it all together. Then form into balls and roll together in your hands, about the size of a golf ball.

Put them into a baking tray with some olive oil and a thinly sliced red pepper, coating everything in oil before putting them in the oven. Bake them for 25 minutes, but give them a shake after 10 minutes. They should take on a bit of colour but you don't want them to cook for too long and dry out.

While they were in the oven I cooked a sliced onion in a bit of oil and butter until golden, then added the blitzed tomato sauce into the pan to warm through. A lot of fat came out of my meatballs, which was great as they ended up so juicy, so instead of adding the sauce into the baking tray I scooped them out of the fat with the peppers and tossed them into the sauce in the pan.

Serve with some buttery polenta and some chopped fresh sage. They were SO good, really juicy delicious meatballs and the sauce was lovely and rich, perfect with buttery polenta and little bursts of sage.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Nasturtium Pesto

When Channel 4 phoned and said would I be interested in cooking with Michel Roux Junior on television, this was the recipe I came up with, on top of a chilled summer cucumber soup. I think I was a bit overwhelmed to be honest. I'm still a bit confused by my decision, and couldn't tell you where on earth it came from, but it is definitely tasty. I was inspired by the Ouseburn farm where I get some of my veg, it was August last year and there were huge beds of bright nasturtiums climbing all over, little courgettes, herbs and spiky cucumbers all waiting to be picked. So I made the soup and Michel made the pesto, he was very nice if you're interested, very nice indeed...

It seems like Autumn is on it's way in , but I still have nasturtium leaves creeping all over the allotment, so if you have access to any you could give this a go...

You need approximately 25g nasturtium leaves. These are very easy to grow in a pot if you fancy, just chuck a packet of seeds in some compost early summer and they should provide you with spicy leaves and edible flowers all summer. Pick 6 mint leaves and 10 nasturtium seed pods. These look a bit like capers and have a massively spicy kick to them, when the flowers wilt you're left with a seed pod, which you can eat, or keep and plant again. You will need 25g pumpkin seeds or pinenuts, a pinch of salt, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Michel does things properly so set about this is a pestle and mortar, but I mostly use my little whizzer; don't tell him. Add the nasturtium leaves, mint, seed pods, pumpkin seeds, a pinch of salt and a good glug of olive oil to the whizzer and blend until smooth. You might need to add more oil, I like it so you can drizzle it off a spoon rather than a thick paste, but it's up to you. Add the lemon juice at the end to taste, just a dash should do.