BFF Simple Salad Dressing (3 Fun Ways!) — Basil Food Friends

Part of my intention in creating this blog is to share the joy of simple home cooking and some of the how to – so that if you don’t have access to your Mum or Gran or other significant person who can share their experience with you, you might find a helping hand here.

I have several topics in mind and as I go about my normal cooking I am documenting some of what I do. Yesterday as I threw together a salad for lunch and made an oil and lemon dressing I added salad dressings to the mental list. Then today Basil Food Friends, my new BFF, posted on this very topic and they have done it proud so here it is – pop over and visit when you need to dress that salad! What better way to put good fresh food on the table! And they have some other great, real food ideas to share with you.

Salad dressing can make or break an otherwise healthy salad. While it may be quick and easy to pick up a bottle of prepared salad dressing, store bought salad dressings have long ingredients lists that are full of excessive sugars and chemicals. Luckily, it is also quick and easy to make your own dressing, so […]

via BFF Simple Salad Dressing (3 Fun Ways!) — Basil Food Friends

A Little Sweetener – Strawberry and Cherry Cupcakes

There is a great deal in the press and on social media about the evils of sugar – and I agree! Drinking cans of soft drink with the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar, consuming large amounts of confectionary full of sugar and colouring and precious little else, or gorging on commercial cakes and biscuits that add trans fats to high sugar loadings is not doing any of us any good. And don’t get me started on hidden sugars in items like breakfast cereals, and sugars that go under other names like maltodextrin or corn syrup!

Having said this I am also strongly of the view that a little of something usually ain’t going to kill you and may in fact be good for the body and the spirit – everything in moderation – and homemade sweet treats that have real ingredients like butter and eggs and fruit, and that share the ten teaspoons of sugar amongst of group of people who are enjoying each others company are part of a life well lived!

The other night we were hosting a committee meeting where most were coming straight from work, some from a day spent outdoors and I wanted something to start the evening along with a hot drink. The fridge yielded the end of a punnet of strawberries and bottled cherries left over from making pineapple upside down cake last weekend so strawberry and cherry cupcakes were the upshot.

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If I am tossing something like this together I tend to default to a fairly standard cake batter – the one I used for the pineapple upside down cake! So if you are interested head on over and get the details there. The same quantities that made the cake will make 12 cupcakes. The recipe refers to using the juice from the tinned pineapple – I still had some left in the fridge so used that but I could equally have used straight milk – or almond milk.

Once the cake batter was made I added about a cup of hulled, washed and diced strawberries and stirred them in to the mix. I lined a muffin tray with patty cake liners and divided the mixture amongst them, being sparing to start with – they need to be about half filled as they will rise as they cook – once all twelve have filling you can go back an distribute the remainder to those that might look a little light on. I popped a cherry on the top of each and put the tray in a 200°C oven for six minutes then turned it around for another six. Once cooked the cake will spring back to the touch and should be golden but not over brown. If necessary give it another couple of minutes. If you are worried as to whether the mixture is cooked test it with a skewer that should come out clean. The cherries tend to disappear sinking into the mix and forming a hidden taste bomb!

Once cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack – if you haven’t got one the grill tray in most ovens works well. You have to keep an eye on these guys as they tend to sprout legs and walk off with passing sons, daughters and other interested parties – muffled yelps will expose culprits sneaking hot cake when they bite into the cherry! These can be served warm with cream or ice cream or just as is but are also good cold and can make their way into a lunch box if they survive that long! For us they were a plate of sweet treats to start the brains working – food on our committee meeting table – less the couple that got away!

Enjoy!

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While these were strawberry and cherry they could equally, and often have been, apple or blueberry, raspberry, orange … the principle stays the same – depends on what the fridge and the fruit bowl offer up as generally this sort of baking is unplanned in our household, happening as the spirit moves me! Please do share your experiences if you experiment …

 

Stock Standard – and How to Convince your Friends that You are a Great Cook!

The temperature is dropping! The scent of real stock is something that says home, warmth and security to me and can form a nutritious basis to a whole range of dishes. This post is a rework of one from my old blog Living Eating Well, a blog that has been superseded by this one as my ideas about what I want from my blog have evolved.

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Making a good stock is very straight forward yet many people shy away from doing it themselves. Start with a big pan, preferably one with a heavy base, and three quarter fill it with cold water. Put it on to heat on a medium setting. What I am making here is chicken stock but the principles are the same for any bone base. Add chicken frames, these are carcasses of chickens that have had most of the meat removed. There were four in this large pan and I got them from my friendly butcher close by where I live.

Next add veggies for flavour and for all the vitamins and minerals that they bring with them – all mine are local Tasmanian grown. I always put in an onion, peeled and cut in quarters, celery sticks, about three cut in thirds, and a couple of carrots, washed and cut in chunks. Then its a case of what else I have – I keep a bag in the freezer where I put mushroom stalks, bacon rinds and parsley stalks but today it was empty! Instead I went through the fridge and added the outside leaves and top of a leek, several older runner beans that were left over from earlier in the week and a little tough, and the stalks from some fresh coriander. Making stock is a great way to reduce food waste in your home!

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Every stock that you make is as individual as you are depending on when and where you make it

Then out to the garden to collect a little oregano, a bay leaf or two, a red chilli, some thyme and a couple a sage leaves. These I added to the stock which was by then getting warm and aromatic! The final ingredients were a few black pepper corns and a couple of whole cloves from my spice collection. I don’t add salt to stock – I add that to the dish that I make with the stock at the appropriate stage. Once the stock reaches the boil I turn it down to a simmer, put the lid on and let it cook for at least an hour – the longer you can leave it the richer and more complex the flavours that develop – four to eight hours is great but keep an eye on liquid levels and top up with a little water if need be. Then I strain it ready for use! Sometimes its a case of straight away in a vegetable soup for dinner.

If I am not using it immediately I try to remember to freeze it because then it is fine whenever! It is best left to cool first – in a bowl in the fridge. Moving away from plastic bags and containers I am starting to use glass jars to freeze liquids like these – just need to remember that they will expand by about 10% so don’t overfill the jars.

A couple of thoughts about stock – don’t use brassicas including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts in your stock because they are high in sulphur and can make the stock rank in flavour. Once made and frozen stock will keep happily for a number of months. I use stock as the base for home made soup but also to add as the base of a casserole or curry, to make a thickened gravy to go with roast chicken or to form the base of a chicken cream sauce to use in the filling for a chicken pie or to add to chicken and vegetables to serve with rice or pasta or just with steamed greens and a salad if you don’t want carbs. And of course any time a recipe says add stock cubes – I like to know what is going in my food and with your own stock you do! Remember that unlike commercial stock or stock cubes there is no salt in this recipe so you need to add it to the dish you are cooking.

On a final note one of the beautiful things about making stock is the wonderful aroma that lingers around the house and has family and visitors saying nice things about your cooking – when you haven’t really done any yet!

Have fun – make your own stock and use it to bring great food to your table!

Enjoy!

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I would love to hear about your adventures making stock and the purposes to which you put the product.

The Most Important Meal of the Day – What’s on the Menu?

My mum was onto breakfast as the most important meal of the day since before I can remember! Personally I have tended to have a rather mixed relationship with this meal because it comes in the morning and I am definitely a night owl – some of my earliest memories are lying in bed awake long after the light went out. I found it interesting when I had my own children that my eldest was a morning child, up with the sparrows and out like light as soon as she switched off at night. When my son came along I found myself looking at the child I remember in my head – he was never one to make a fuss but when I went in to check on them he would be lying there good as gold and wide awake!

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Muesli with fresh fruit supplies a nutrient rich kick start

My point is that if you are a night owl breakfast can be a challenge because it requires action before my brain is really engaged! The meal of my childhood was cereal of the packet variety and toast, classic fare for sixties kids. At the weekend we might have bacon and eggs or sometimes a treat like pancakes. As I have gotten older I have come to understand my body rather better and what works best for me in terms of providing lasting energy through the day, and it has come with some changes to how I think about food. Cereal still figures when I am in the mood but it is muesli with lots of nuts, seeds and dried fruits topped with fresh fruit and sometimes yogurt.

In summer I adore fresh fruit and I ring the changes with Earl Grey tea, herbal tea or cider vinegar, lemon juice and water – this last I should do more often as it does give a really cleansing, refreshing start to the day and gets good press for its health benefits! Sometimes a simple bowl of blueberries fresh picked is quite enough.

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As winter sets in, however, as it is at present, I need more energy, particularly if I can’t count on a satisfying lunch on a busy day. I have learned that I do far better on protein and veggies than I do on cereal and toast but it has taken quite a mind shift to devise ways of delivering this before I am really awake. Weekends are fine because one can start late or better yet go out and enjoy brunch. Smashed avocado with poached eggs and mushrooms plus or minus sourdough toast is a favourite when someone else is cooking. If its me at the helm I often default back to eggs and bacon from my childhood but add it spinach or some other veggie.

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Sunday brunch courtesy of the Picnic Basket Cafe
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Home cooked bacon, scrambled eggs with parsley, steamed silverbeet and reheated potato scones (left over from making the Chicken, leek and green chilli pie with potato crust)

Weekdays remained a challenge until I realised that my thinking was being constrained by a box labeled ‘breakfast ingredients’ – if it wasn’t in the box I didn’t consider it. Then one day I made a break through – I love thick and hearty vegetable soup made from a bone based stock. A bowl of this for breakfast takes no thought at all – open fridge, take out soup container, ladle into pan and heat while I make tea! So easy and its warm, filling and a great start to my day.

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Vegetable soup can be made in bulk and keeps well or freezes

Soup every day would eventually wear a little thin and I have learned to make an omelette or scramble some eggs and then add perhaps a couple of meat balls or a little salad.

 

Some people, like my Scottish ancestors, swear by oatmeal porridge as a winter warmer – ‘it sticks to your insides!’ – that is perhaps my problem with it! With the exception of Guide camps where long ago I learned to be a good leader and model trying anything you are given, I do not eat the stuff! But I do eat asian style savoury rice porridge – perhaps my ultimate winter breakfast.

This is a dish I first met during my university days when I spent time with the asian student community studying in Hobart. Late at night after a party the girls would head to the kitchen and return with this wonderful fragrant chicken and rice dish that was part soup part casserole and that they called ‘Kai chook’ or words to that effect. It was a traditional Laotian dish that provided a wind up to partying – and helped counteract the effects of alcohol! Since then I have met it again in a number of settings – most recently served from food vans at our iconic Salamanca Market. The present day version is marketed as congee and it generally thicker and more like a porridge.

Together my son and I have devised our own version of congee as he too thinks it makes for a great start to a Tasmanian winter’s day. Start with a good chicken stock – which will be the topic of a future post. In a heavy bottomed pan heat a little olive oil on a low to medium heat and in it sauté finely chopped garlic, ginger and fresh chilli. Add a couple of cups of medium or long grained rice and cover generously with stock. Bring to the boil then turn down to simmer. Cook until the rice is soft – longer than one normally would as the aim is for a porridge like consistency. Keep an eye on the liquid level and add extra stock if necessary. (If you run out use a little stock powder and water)

 

Once cooked stir in roughly chopped cooked chicken meat and season to taste. Sometimes I take a short cut and buy a pre-cooked chook – strip it of meat and make stock from the carcass then add the meat back at the end. A better option, when I have the time and inclination, is to poach a whole chicken in water with seasoning and vegetables, lift it out when the meat is cooked and strip it from the bones which are then returned to the pot to further enrich the stock – basically a number of ways of achieving the desired outcome, some of which create a superior product!

We also add chopped spring onions. This can be done as you dish up together with chopped mint and/or coriander, hot chilli sauce, crispy fried onions – take your pick or add your own flavours – crushed peanuts perhaps, after all its your breakfast! The joy of congee is that like my vegetable soup it keeps for several days in the fridge or you can freeze it so we make a big batch then breakfast is merely a matter of putting some in the pan, heating it through, maybe adding a splash of water if it has thickened more than you want – checking the seasoning and sprinkling on any added extras and hey presto Breakfast is on the table – and my brain can wake up gently!

Enjoy!

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I would love to hear what makes it on to your breakfast table!

Foraging for Food – the role of Leftovers and Roast Chicken and Baked Vegetable Pot Pie

Recently I was reading another foodie blog that was asking what people’s favourite tricks with leftovers were. It was fascinating to read the varying responses while thinking about what I do here at home. Some talked about the stock standards that they default to including stews and casseroles. My equivalent I suppose would be savoury mince which is cooking on the stove as I write and is one of my favourite ways of clearing out the veggie crisper before our farmers market – all the remaining odds and ends of vegetables, with the exception of brassicas, go in. (no brassicas – cabbage, broccoli , cauliflower, Brussel sprouts as they have a high sulpher content and can make gravy go rank particularly if you want to keep the dish) Today that meant the last red onion, a few tatty spring onions, the end of the celery, half a swede, a couple of carrots as well as parsley and garlic. All were browned together with beef and pork mince, covered with water and set to slow cook. By special request this mince is destined to have dumplings added for dinner tomorrow night.

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You have heard of a ‘bitsa’ dog – a bit of this and a bit of that – this is a ‘bitsa’ meal – open the fridge, raid the pantry and see what you can find!

Others talked about what I call a ‘bitsa’ meal – bits of this and that. That can mean the sort of meal where there are single serves from several meals and the family negotiates for who wants what. This is less common in our house where those single serves usually become lunches that either walk out with someone or are devoured by the one left at home with better things to do than cook. My mum had a different version of a ‘bitsa’, particularly in summer, when she would pull all sorts of things out of the fridge and pantry and create a spread of small dishes – hard boiled eggs, cheese, sliced raw vegetables according to what she found, left over hummus, beetroot, pickled onions, a packet of crisps, cold meats, the ends of bread toasted up … Each ‘bitsa’ meal was different but the meals themselves had that comforting sense of familiarity. To this day when we are thinking of what to eat someone will pipe up ‘How about we just have bits?’

While I have other standards including main meal fried rice and all encompassing soups I generally have a different strategy when it comes to leftovers. I prefer to do one of two things. Option one is to avoid them in the first place. This can be achieved by cooking an appropriate amount that gets eaten in one sitting – not always possible I agree but the older you get the more experience you have and the more often you get it right! If I run on the lean side there is always the fruit bowl. Or leftovers can be avoided by cooking enough for two good meals and reserving the second half for a quick meal later in the week or it can go in the freezer as a backstop. Generally I prefer the former as I find that we are more likely to use the food. Packages in the freezer have a habit of losing labels or lids or meeting with other unforeseen adventures that render them unusable or unrecognisable; having said that a couple of containers of soup, Bolognese sauce and macaroni cheese go along way towards avoiding family meltdowns!

Option two is perhaps my favourite; go foraging and reinvent the contents of the fridge. To forage, according to the dictionary is to search widely for food or to find food by searching. I know some people incapable of finding food in a refrigerator! Even when its staring them in the face. Left overs can be a little like that – they sit in odd containers and can become inconspicuous, getting pushed further towards the back, not to be discovered until the next archaeological dig! Perhaps your fridge is better behaved but ours certainly has its moments so the challenge is to stay on top of what is present and use it in imaginative ways. Today it was roast chicken and baked vegetables.

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Left over roast chicken and vegetables reinvented as pie and pasty filling

So what’s to imagine – put it in a dish in the oven and reheat! Fine but I have never been a great fan of reheated baked meals – they smack of TV dinners and are never as nice as the first time. We had a lovely roast a couple of nights ago but my son had a head cold that dampened his appetite and it was a large chook to start with. So sitting in the fridge was half a roast chicken with assorted baked carrots, parsnip, and sweet potato, one solitary roast potato and a little steamed cabbage. What to do? Pot pie and pasties!

First I chopped the left over chicken and vegetables, added a little left over gravy and seasoning and mixed well. Five minutes and I had pie and pasty filling. Then I made a batch of short crust pastry. This was my Mum’s go to pastry that she used for virtually everything. I made it as my Gran would have done 8oz (2 cups) plain flour to 4oz (125g) fat – in my case I used half butter half lard. Some of you may prefer all butter but the lard makes a light crisp pastry. I will not use margarine. Its best to sift the flour and add a pinch of salt then rub the fat into the flour. I cheat by grating the butter first. For best results use fat straight from the fridge and keep everything cool. Use only your fingertips to do the rubbing in to help keep the mix cool. Or throw it all in the kitchen whizz or equivalent – your choice, I am very much a ‘hands in’ cook as those of you who follow me will discover.

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These little guys are tomorrow’s lunch with a dipping sauce and a side of salad

Once the mixture resembles bread crumbs add cold water to bind. A rule of thumb is one tablespoon for each ounce of flour but as usual this is not an exact science. I was taught to use a round bladed knife and to cut through the mix adding a little water at a time until the pastry starts to pull together. The aim is to use just enough so that you can form the mixture into a rough ball kneading lightly. Today it took exactly 8 tablespoons of water to achieve this. Turn onto a floured board ready to roll out. I find it a good idea to cut the dough into a couple of pieces as you want to avoid having to roll it too often,

Today I wanted to make two things – pasties for lunch tomorrow and pot pie for dinner so I cut the dough in two; each half I rolled out and cut four rounds from each. I used my largest cooky cutter which is about 3 inches across. Excess dough from each batch I then gathered up into one new ball and kneaded lightly again before cutting in two and rolling out lids for my pot pies.

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I then took the eight rounds and made pasties. I put a teaspoon of the chicken mixture in the centre, folded up the edges and crimped them together by pinching the pastry firmly. Sometimes it takes a little water or beaten egg to moisten the edges and help them stick but the gravy in the filling seemed to do the trick here. Once formed the pasties went on a well oiled tray, steam vents were poked in top of each side with a sharp knife and they were brushed with lightly beaten egg. Then into a 200°C oven for about twelve minutes, turning the tray once in the middle. When the pastry is golden they are done – the filling is already cooked remember. Put on a rack to cool or eat hot. Careful – if you turn your back they have a tendency to disappear!

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While the pasties cooked I put the remainder of the filling in two small flat oven proof dishes and covered these with pastry lids. In this case I did brush the edges of the dishes with egg and pressed the pastry down to stick to the dish. These are simple pies with only a lid. Again they need steam vents and I like to add the traditional pastry leaves before brushing with egg to glaze. These also went into a 200°C oven and baked for about 15 minutes – why they took longer I have no idea! The perversities of nature!

To serve I carefully lifted the lid off the cooked pie and set it to one side then transferred the filling to a warm plate and positioned the lid back on top. This stops people getting burned by hot pots and makes the whole easier to eat. All dinner then needed was some extra vegetables on the side – English spinach and cauliflower, fresh from the farmer’s market and lightly steamed. I had homemade plum sauce with my pot pie while my son ate his au natural. Each to their own but served together. Leftovers? Maybe – food on the table definitely!

Enjoy!

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Chicken, Leek and Green Chilli Pie with Potato Crust

This recipe is an adaptation of a lovely recipe blogged recently by Cooking up the Pantry. The original recipe does not include the green chillies and olives used here and was gluten free which this is not. If you are looking for a gluten free recipe head on over and visit Cooking up the Pantry . Many thanks for the inspiration – great food to put on the table.
IMG_8159IMG_8162Put the oven on to warm at about 190°C . Take one large leek or two smaller ones and slice into rings. Push out the rings so that they seperate and wash under cold running water. It is important to wash leeks well as soil can get trapped between their layers as the plant grows. Put a large knob of butter into a pan on a low heat and then add the leeks. Cook for about ten minutes until tender.  Once cooked add a third of a cup of plain flour and stir over the heat for two minutes. Pour in two cups of chicken stock – preferably homemade but otherwise made up from stock powder or using commercial liquid stock. I prefer homemade because then I know exactly what went in it. If I have to use a commercial product I use Massals powders as they have no meat content but the vegetable and spice profile mimics chicken flavour.

To the leek mixture add about 500g of cooked chicken chopped into pieces, a deseeded and finely chopped chilli, two finely chopped cloves of garlic and a handful of chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley. Take off the heat and spread in a heat proof casserole dish. I added Kalamata olives to half of the dish as I love the flavour hits that they provide but my son does not! Put to one side.

 

 

 

Either use some left over mashed potato or, as I did here, start from scratch and steam some potatoes. I love it when I can go out into my winter garden and find food – today it was potatoes that I had not yet harvested! Once cooked mash well and add a little salt and pepper.

IMG_8168 Take about 500g of mashed potato and add 100g of chopped butter, 1/4 cup of plain flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder (I sifted the flour and baking powder together on top of the potato).  Then using hands gently work the potato mixture together into a soft dough. Put the dough on to a floured board and press out until about 1/2cm thick. Use a scone cutter to cut out potato rings and place them on top of the leek and chicken mixture. Left over potato can be pulled back together into a ball and pressed out again. Once the casserole is covered any extra potato can be shaped into more rounds and placed on a buttered tray. I sprinkled the ones I made with finely grated cheese and smokey paprika. Place the trays in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until the potato crust is crispy and golden. The free standing potato rounds may take a little less time to cook but I put the casserole in first and then used up the extra so that they came out of the oven at about the same time.

 

 

Serve with steamed vegetables that put colour on the plate – dark leafy greens, beans, carrot sticks, sweet corn – choose from your favourites and what is available in your refrigerator at the time. For us it was Brussel sprouts and green beans left from some bought yesterday to go with dinner last night. Buying in small quantities and planning how we use them reduces food waste and ensures that vegetables are as fresh as possible but we also have to be realistic about how often we can shop.

Set the table and serve up – food on the table! Enjoy

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Family Favourites and the Role of Tradition – featuring the humble Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I hope every family has its favourite meals and its own family traditions; both help mark the passage of seasons and the passing of time. They help us to stay connected to our family and to our roots and as we grow older they are powerful memories of the past and of special people and events.

Favourites are not necessarily anything particularly spectacular, just part of the fabric of life. Last night I made a couple of ours – good old fashioned roast chicken with baked root veggies and steamed greens followed by the humble pineapple upside down cake. Roast chicken I have found to be one of those meals that meets many people’s comfort food guidelines. After a big day outside, in the cool of the year as it is at present in Tasmania, sitting down to a hearty meal rich in protein and vegetables with lots of colour on the plate leaves one feeling nurtured and loved – even when its you that did the cooking. My vegetarian friends clearly pass on the chicken but enjoy the range of veggies; the chicken can be replaced with a cheese sauce for the steamed vegetables or with the addition of something like marinated tofu that can be added to the baked veg.

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And as for pineapple upside down cake – it is something that comes out as the weather cools because I will almost always have the ingredients at hand, its quick and easy to make and basically fool proof! Last night I made it at the request of my son who has been feeling a little under the weather and obviously in the market for some TLC. As I dished it up he said “You know this is one of the first things I remember learning to cook with you and I wrote it down in my recipe book at the time!” His words reminded me that, in the manner of good traditions, it was also one of the first cakes that I remember cooking both at school and with my mum and I still have that recipe written in a very young hand in my first recipe book!

The recipe has evolved a little over time with the glacé cherries of my childhood being replaced with what I consider to be far superior bottled maraschino cherries – they taste so much better but do rather stain the pineapple so if you want the perfect look stick with  the glacé variety.

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Start by putting the oven on to heat at about 200°C – I say about because you know your oven better than anyone else. Put a large knob of butter into a nine inch pan or equivalent; last night all I could find was my square pan which holds 6 pineapple rings quite well as long as you cut one up. Melt the butter in the warming oven being careful not to let it burn. Remove from the oven and use a brush to ensure that the sides of the pan are well greased then sprinkle a little sugar across the base of the dish. Traditionally I use soft brown sugar but last night I only had raw  so that was what I used. Drain a can of sliced pineapple rings – I choose the ones packed in pineapple juice as they have a better flavour and less sugar. Reserve the juice for making the cake mixture and lay the rings in the baking tin. Place cherries of your choice in the centre of each ring and in any other spaces in the pattern that you care to fill.

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The cake mixture is made by creaming together half a cup of raw sugar and about 200g of butter – I use normal salted butter but you could choose unsalted. At home I like to work by hand most of the time as I hate cleaning machines and the fuss involved in finding all their pieces but feel very welcome to get out the hand held beaters or the mixer – your choice. Once the butter and sugar mixture is light and fluffy crack an egg into a cup and beat lightly with a fork. This needs to be added to the butter mixture a little at a time and beaten in well before a further addition or you run the risk of the mixture curdling. This is easiest with a mixer but when doing it by hand I add a little flour after each addition of egg and this seems to help prevent problems. The flour I am using is 1 1/2 cups of plain flour with 3 teaspoons of baking power added and both sifted together – you can use self raising flour but I prefer to make my own. Self raising flour that sits for too long unused can lose much of its raising capacity and flour in general can get stale and prone to those nasty little weevils. Thus I prefer to stock my basic flour and add baking powder according to the instructions on the packet (mine says 2 teaspoons to a cup of flour).

Once the egg has been added the remainder of the flour needs to be beaten into the mixture together with enough liquid to make a dropping consistency. For liquid I start with about half of the juice from the pineapple and then milk until the consistency feels right. Some of you will be saying what does ‘feels right’ mean? Unfortunately there is an element of cooking that, as I have said in a previous post, is not an exact science but rather part of the art and that involves becoming a part of the process and using your instincts and feelings – the more you cook the better these get. Once upon a time I did not believe that I would ever make a cake without a recipe – savoury dishes maybe, but cakes no! Then came the day, pre Google I would add, when I was somewhere with no recipe plenty of ingredients and friends looking for cake – and I thought “Heck I have made enough cakes over the years to know the basic principles – just give it a go!” So I did and it worked fine. Have courage – what’s the worst that can happen?

Once the batter is ready, spoon it into the centre of the cake tin and use a palette knife or similar round bladed knife to spread the mixture evenly to the edges of the tin. Place in the middle of the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Check on the cake and turn it through 180° because most ovens do not cook perfectly evenly. If it seems to be browning quickly turn the oven down to 180°C and cook for a further 5 to 7 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. Remove the tin from the oven and allow to stand on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes before turning out carefully onto a serving plate. The cake should pull away from the edges but if not slide a knife around the edge before trying to turn out. Serve with your selection of pouring cream, whipped cream, ice cream or  custard.

And enjoy!

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Please note the photos I use here are taken as I cook meals that are the food that we will be eating and part of my normal day – I make no claims to being the world’s greatest photographer and I have little capacity to spend my time ‘prettying up’ my photos. So what you see is what we eat, cooked in a ‘business as usual’ family kitchen – warts and all! If yours looks better I would love to see the results and welcome your thoughts on what I share.