Forever Nigella #4: Tiny Trifles

The wedding is getting ever closer and so is our party. At this point I’d happily settle for sitting in front of the TV or laptop on my own with a cucumber sandwich, but I don’t think I’m going to get away with it. Even my boss came up to me yesterday and asked for costume advice for a royal wedding party outfit (she’s red-haired, English – the choice was obvious).
More importantly, I had an epiphany over the weekend about my Forever Nigella #4 entry – and so now I’ve revised my party plan accordingly. Next Friday night I’d like to be sitting in front of the TV with a cucumber sandwich and one of these little beauties.

Royal Wedding Trifles
Exhaustive research has revealed that there’s at least one trifle recipe in all Nigella’s books and this recipe owes a little to all of them. I’ve aimed for a vague red, white and blue theme – berries, sponge, cream and Greek yoghurt – with a splash of Pimms for that English summer feeling and a dollop of passionfruit to represent the colonies. I made these in my precious ER glasses (which date back to the Queen’s 1953 tour of New Zealand) for the photograph but for the party itself I’ll be using something a little more robust. If you are feeding lots of people at your street party (or, indeed any party) you could always use plastic glasses. Quantities are approximate – so just add or subtract as you see fit.

For four people
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries and raspberries
A slab of sponge (or trifle sponges, if you are in the UK)
About 1/2 cup Pimms
Juice of 2 oranges (to equal 1/2 a cup)
About 1 cup softly whipped cream
About 1 cup Greek yoghurt
2 passionfruit

Cut the sponge into cubes and divide the fruit between the four glasses. Mix the Pimms and orange juice together and sprinkle over the top – you might not need all of it, in which case it can be a cook’s treat. Divide the fruit between the four glasses. Fold the whipped cream and yoghurt together and dollop gently on top of the fruit. Cover and let sit in the fridge for at least two hours before serving (up to 12 hours is probably ok). Just before serving, scoop out the passionfruit flesh and divide between the glasses. Serve with tiny spoons and glasses of bubbles. To the bride and groom!

Random Recipe #3: Gingerbread

The Small Girl, who is not quite two, knows exactly how to make me happy. She pulls a cookbook off the shelf and starts “reading” it, pointing out the pictures to Teddy. “Mmmm, look Teddy, dinner time”.
I don’t remember doing that myself, but I did used to love leafing through my mother’s two exercise books of most-used recipes. The ‘savoury’ recipes were in one book, the one with a mottled red cover, and the ‘sweet’ ones in the other, which was so well-thumbed I think the cover had fallen off. Mum had lots of other cookbooks, of course, but these two were my favourite.

About 15 years ago Mum sent me a letter saying she’d been organising her collection of cut-out and carefully written down recipes into a fancy new plastic folder. She said she’d enclosed one of my favourites so I could finally make it myself. This was actually a huge joke, because we always, always laughed at this particular page. I still don’t know what would possess this woman to send a magazine a photograph of herself eating – and anyone knows Mrs D.J Allen of Auckland, I wish you’d ask her. In any case, this was the obvious choice for Belleau Kitchen’s April Random Recipe challenge.

Mrs Allen’s Special Spicy Gingerbread
I followed Mrs Allen’s recipe to the letter when I made this, except that I ignored her instructions to bake it in two loaf tins (we only have one large one) and I couldn’t serve it on the brown pottery plate she recommends because we don’t have one of those either. I don’t think this affected the outcome in any way – it was absolutely delicious.

2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
175g butter, melted
3/4 cup golden syrup
2 1/2 cups flour
2tsp baking soda
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup boiling water

Beat eggs with sugar, add melted butter and syrup. Beat again. Add dry ingredients sifted together and lastly boiling water. Bake in two medium-sized loaf tins at 190C for 50 minutes.
Mrs Allen says “keep one loaf to cool and serve buttered with Greggs coffee. Serve the other loaf as a dessert. In summer, cut through the centre and fill with pink ice cream. Decorate the top with whipped cream and pink guavas. Serve on a brown pottery plate. In winter, serve hot with a sauce of blackcurrants.”

Sweet sweet Friday: Spicy Zucchini Cakes

Remember the giant marrow? After slow-cooking half of it and stir-frying another large chunk, the rest of it went into these spicy cakes.

Spicy Zucchini Cakes
These are really just carrot cake in disguise, but I wanted to share this recipe with you because it’s much more finely textured than most vegetable cakes. It could be the amazing marrow, but I suspect it’s got more to do with the method, in which you beat lots of lovely air into the eggs and sugar.
You can ice these however you like – cream cheese icing is the obvious choice – but here I’ve used a light drizzle of icing sugar, orange juice and orange blossom water a la Nigel Slater. It’s not as easy to photograph, but it tastes delicious.

280g flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
250g caster sugar
180ml vegetable oil
180g grated zucchini (about two)
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
finely grated zest of an orange

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin (or baby loaf or bundt tins) – or a 23cm springform cake tin.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and salt into a bowl and set aside.
Beat the eggs and sugar together, either in a freestanding mixer or using an electric whisk, until thick and pale. Slowly drizzle in the oil, still whisking until it is well incorporated (a bit like making mayonnaise).
Mix in the zucchini, poppy seeds and zest, then gently fold in dry ingredients until evenly combined.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean (a cake will take about an hour). Let cool for 10 minutes, then take out of the tins (I use a plastic knife to dig muffins out of tins without heartbreak). Set aside to cool completely on a rack before icing.

Orange Drizzle Icing (with thanks to Nigel Slater)
Mix about 10 Tbsp of icing sugar with 1tsp orange blossom water and 1tsp orange or lemon juice. Add a little more orange/lemon juice until you get the right drizzly consistency.

Have a sweet, sweet Friday and a happy weekend!

Musical Monday: Jim Gaffigan – Cake

Watch this and you’ll never look at a mini muffin in the same way again..

Sweet sweet Friday: Apple Cake

Yesterday afternoon I was listening to some expert on the radio talk about how they were hoping to make a success of exporting New Zealand apples to Russia. He had various reasons for why this was likely, but the main one seemed to be that New Zealand apples were such a great product etc etc. I thought about this a lot as I bit into yet another disappointing new season New Zealand apple from the supermarket. When we lived in London I bought New Zealand apples religiously, relishing every crunchy bite even though I knew they had a carbon footprint bigger than the Abominable Snowman. Are apples like lamb, and fish, and clever young people – do the best ones get sent overseas, never to return?

Luckily there are still a few growers harvesting proper, old-fashioned, apples. Last weekend I bought a bag of tart, crisp Cox’s from the market and they were perfect. The Small Girl dropped a few in her excitement to eat one (I ate a bag of apples a day when I was pregnant, it’s finally showing up), making them perfect for this cake.

Spicy Autumn Apple Cake
This is a slightly tweaked recipe from the newspaper. Well, it’s from the sister paper of the paper I work for (which is to say, it’s owned by the same company rather than being a feminist publication. As if!)
Make more tea than you need the next time you make a pot, then use the extra for this cake. Use oil – a really delicious walnut oil would be amazing – rather than butter if you wish to veganise it.
One last tip: get the crumble topping all ready to go before you add the dry ingredients to the cake, because cake batters don’t like sitting around waiting.

1 1/2 cups hot tea
1 1/2 cups giant raisins and diced prunes (I used about 1 cup raisins, 1/2 cup chopped prunes) or the dried fruit of your choice)
1 cup whole oats
3/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1Tbsp date syrup (or use maple, or golden syrup)
1 cup peeled, diced apple (about 2 medium apples)
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup wholemeal spelt flour (or normal flour)
1 cup white spelt (or normal) flour
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg (preferably a good grinding of a whole nutmeg)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

Crumble topping:
50g butter, melted (or oil)
1/3 cup each rolled oats, coconut, wholemeal flour, chopped nuts (ie Brazil, almond, pecan, walnut) and brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Put the raisins, rolled oats, date syrup and brown sugar in a large bowl, then pour over the hot tea. Stir, then allow to go cold. Hang the washing out, make a phone call, read a story – it doesn’t take long.
Melt the butter for the topping and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 170C and grease and line a springform 24cm tin.
Add the diced apple and lemon zest to the cold tea mixture, then sift over the dry ingredients. Mix gently but thoroughly, then tip into the prepared tin. .
For the topping, mix the melted butter (or oil) with the other ingredients, then sprinkle over the waiting cake batter. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the cake is ‘springy’ when you press it with a finger. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes, then ease it out of the tin. Don’t turn it upside down onto a plate unless you want to pick bits of topping off the floor.

Hope you all have a sweet, sweet Friday and a delicious weekend x