Saturday, 17 October 2009

Hefty meringue cake for 2

Another exercise in pleasurable frugality today. I made baked custard for pudding earlier in the week and was left with 3 egg whites in the fridge.

There are many sorrowful little packets of frozen egg white in my freezer, languishing there as an eternal monument to good intentions. For that very reason I did not freeze these three, but kept them in a desert bowl on the first shelf of the fridge to glare at me accusingly whenever I searched for a yogurt.

Saturday seemed as good a time as any to indulge, and although I did fleetingly consider making lots of little meringues to give, generously, to all and sundry at church tomorrow, greed prevailed, and Dr K and I will be sharing this monster tonight, all by ourselves...

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 180g unrefined caster sugar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon corn flour
  • 1 scant teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • Few drops real vanilla essence
  • Whipped cream and fruit to fill
  • Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  • In a clean, dry bowl, start whisking the egg whites with the salt (using an electric whisk unless you want to risk a nervous breakdown).
  • As the whites start to form satiny peaks, sprinkle in the sugar. Add in three increments, whisking well after each, until you have a very stiff and shiny meringue. The great test is to hold the bowl upside down - the meringue should not budge.
  • Sift the cornflour over the meringue, and drip in the vanilla and vinegar. Fold through gently with a large metal spoon.
  • Dollop the meringue onto the parchment in two equal mounds. Using a pallet knife, shape each into a rough circle and smooth the surface.
  • Pop the tray into the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 150C/300F.
  • Set a timer for 40 minutes. When it goes off, turn off the oven, but don't open the door until it feels completely cold.
  • Once cold, invert one meringue on to a serving plate and fill the cavity with whipped cream. Pile on your fruit (you might like to try the last of the summer berries; baked plums and a little of their juice; peeled and cubed ripe pears with a dark chocolate sauce; or ripe mango with finely diced stem ginger and a drizzle of the syrup from the jar).
  • Finally, spread some more cream on the underside of the second meringue disk and top the base.
  • Dive in.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Two tomatoes for a TV dinner

I wanted to counger up a little domestic warmth this weekend, and perhaps the scents and sense of a more Mediterranean climate as the barometer drops outside.

In the spirit of frugality I am attempting to limit my fridge waste. A treaty packet of mi-cuit tomatoes has done us well recently, with delicious stuffed chicken breasts, mozzarella and basil sandwiches, and a tasty rice stuffing. I thought of making tomato bread with the remainder, but when it came to it I found I was without yeast (a shocking kitchen omission I know). So the bread turned into scones, and was paired with this yummy soup, another exercise in 'waste not want not' using half a bunch of coriander left over from a Friday night curry.

Tomato, Lentil and Coriander Soup


  • 1 fat garlic clove, squashed
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • A small bunch of coriander, stems separated and chopped finely
  • 1 cup split red lentils
  • 1 tin cherry tomatoes in juice
  • 1 tin good quality chopped tomatoes
  • 750ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Heat a little oil in a saucepan with the garlic, until the smell wafts up.
  • Add the chopped onion and coriander stems and cook gently, stirring often, until soft but not golden.
  • Add the lentils and stir well to cover in a slick of oil.
  • Add both the tins of tomatoes and the stock, bring to a boil, and then turn down and simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are very soft and the liquid has reduced.
  • Add the coriander leaves. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.
  • Once cooler, remove three cups of soup to a blender and pulse until smooth.
  • Return the puree to the saucepan and reheat gently. Season with a good squeeze of lemon to taste before serving.
Feeds 2 hearty eaters for a TV dinner.

Cheese and Tomato Scones

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 150ml milk
  • Handful of mi-cuit or sunblush tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • 40g grated mature cheddar
  • Preheat the oven to 210C/410F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  • Sift together the flour, salt and raising agents.
  • Cube the butter into the flour and rub in well using the pads of your fingers until fine sand forms.
  • Add the milk all at once and bring the dough together, first with a wooden spoon and then with your hands. Try not to work it too much.
  • On a floured surface knead in the cheese and tomatoes.
  • Roll out the dough to a thickness of 3cm and cut 6cm rounds using a metal cookie cutter. Place them on the baking sheet. With re-rolling you should get 6 scones.
  • Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden on top and cooked through.
  • Allow to cool on a rack before eating.
Makes 6.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Plum crumble cake for pudding

Autumn is here. Clear blue skies and frigid mornings, a blanket on the bed at night, and warming, stodgy food. We seem to instinctively crave the food which will support us through the seasons. I have been dreaming of rice pudding - sweet and creamy with a generous dusting of nutmeg.

But this week I had 4 wrinkly purple plums blaming me from the fruit bowl for their sad state. Baking fruit has always been a favorite trick of mine to restore less than perfect specimens. These were cooked slowly with honey and cranberry juice until soft and fragrant but holding their shape.

Unfortunately three days in bed feeling very sorry for myself found the plums still in the fridge, uneaten. What an opportunity to create a lovely pudding cake - and I'm genuinely very pleased with this one, with the sweet but tart fruit cutting through the vanilla sponge and nubbly almond topping. Enjoy with cream, or for the real Autumn experience, custard.


  • 4 plums, halved and stones removed, and baked until soft.
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 125g unrefined caster sugar
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla essence
  • For the topping: 1 cup plain flour, 1/2 cup ground almonds, 3 tablespoons caster sugar, pinch salt, large slice (c. 40g) unsalted butter.
Note: I give the topping ingredients in very rough proportions as that is the best way to make crumble in my opinion - some like more butter, others a very fine crumble, and it really has a lot to do both with personal taste, and the qualities of the flour you are using. Use your instinct.


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F. Line the base of a square baking tin with parchment.
  • In a processor or by hand, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  • Sift the flour together with the baking powder. In a separate bowl beat the eggs together loosely.
  • Add alternating increments of the flour and eggs to the butter sugar cream, beating well after each addition. With the last of the egg add the vanilla extract.
  • Pour the cake batter into the tin, spreading evenly into the corners. Place the plum halves, cut side up, into the cake.
  • Make the crumble topping: mix together plain flour, almonds, sugar and salt; rub in the cold butter with the pads of your fingers until all the flour mix is incorporated and you have a texture you like. Scatter the crumble evenly over the surface of the cake.
  • Bake the cake for around an hour, until the crumble is golden and the sponge is cooked through.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Grannie's sticky ginger cake

Another family recipe for you, to counger up the nostalgia of history's kitchen. My maternal family is known for its fondness for spicy, not too sweet, cakes and biscuits. I can see from Grannie's notes that the original recipe called for about a third of the spices used, and topped the cake with candied fruits not stem ginger. This version is a dark delight, very moreish....


  • 50g butter
  • 1 rounded tablespoon treacle
  • 25g soft brown sugar
  • 125g stem ginger, drained of syrup and sliced into thick coins
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 level teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground cloves
  • Pinch salt
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125g very soft unsalted butter

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
  • Melt the butter, treacle and sugar in a saucepan.
  • Arrange the ginger slices on the bottom of a loaf or cake tin (21cm diameter is about right). Pour over the treacle mix and tip the tin from side to side a little to spread the sticky goo over all the ginger.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt into a mixing bowl or the bowl of a food processor.
  • Add the caster sugar, eggs and butter, cubed, and beat thoroughly for 2 minutes until a smooth batter forms.
  • Pour over the ginger and treacle, which will spread around and up the sides of the tin, carefully covering all the ginger, and smooth the top.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until the cake is firm to the touch, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Invert the cake onto a plate and cool before eating.