Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The 40 Minute Christmas Cake

This has a little of the "seven minute abs" about it: "7's the key number here. Think about it. 7-Elevens. 7 dwarves. 7, man, that's the number. 7 chipmunks twirlin' on a branch, eatin' lots of sunflowers on my uncle's ranch". Until someone comes up with a 30 minute Christmas Cake, I offer this.

I should make a sign for the tin of this cake saying “DO NOT FEED THE CAKE!” This cake is for all those people who haven’t made a cake by mid December and feel there really isn’t any point starting. It’s undemanding from all aspects and seems to genuinely please guests needing a respite from traditional cakes. It truly is the 40 minute Christmas Cake!

This cake is more Italian in sentiment, than of provenance, with it’s generous shards of dark chocolate, flecks of chopped dates and apricots, slivers of figs, pine nuts, and a hit of fresh citrus. It is the cake to make if you loath the combination of currants, citrus peel, marzipan and royal icing.

125g butter
125g light muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
100g ground almonds
125g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
450g mixture of chopped dried apricots, dates, figs
70g pine nuts
100g chopped dark chocolate
grated zest and juice of a small orange

Preheat the oven to 160C/ gas mark 3. Put the baking shelf in the lower half of the oven. Beat the butter and sugar till fluffy. Meanwhile, line a 9 inch cake tin with baking paper.
Break the eggs into a small bowl and mix thoroughly, adding them, a little at a time, to the fully creamed butter and sugar. If the mixture curdles slightly, and it probably will, then mix in 1 tbsp or two of the flour. Add the apricots, dates, figs, ground almonds, chocolate and pine nuts.
To the flour, add the baking powder, then add it, a tablespoon at a time, to the cake mixture. Stir in the orange zest and juice. Spoon into the lined cake tin, then bake for 40 minutes. Remove the cake from the heat and let it cool in its tin. When the cake is cold, wrap it, still in its paper, in foil or cling-film and leave in a cool place. This cake will keep for around 2 weeks.

Monday, 21 June 2010

more pressies from California....Tartine Cookbook

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this handsome addition to my library. It's still parked by my bedside at the moment, but will be debuting in the kitchen very soon.
The foreward is written by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, but the book belongs to the owners of this San Franscico bakery institution, Elisabeth Prueitt and her husband Chad Robertson. I haven't had the pleasure of visiting Tartine yet (it's only a matter of time), but have been told it always draws a long line from it's doors.
You can tell by the name that it draws inspiration from European baking traditions. Inside are Bavarian cakes, a Toasted Almond and Lavender Parfait and Clafoutis, as well as a definitive Brownie recipe. I've been told they also do a mean breakfast in their cafe.
Pressies from California

My lovely sister-in-law lives in San Francisco and has come home with her husband and 8 week old baby for the summer in Devon, laiden with tasty pressies.
Stonehouse California's "Extra Virgin Blood Orange" is a delicious treat made by pressing tree ripened blood oranges with late season olives. I've been drizzling it with abandon over salads and barbequed fish for the last few weeks.
They also do Lisbon Lemon, Persian Lime, Garlic and Chilli Oils.
Book Launch at the gorgeous Whitehouse in Chillington

This picture of the inside of the Whitehouse might look a little skewed, lop-sided even. It wasn't because I was completely sloshed before the party had truely kicked off, but was down to some crazy killer heels I was wearing that evening.
Tamara, at the Whitehouse made it all easy and relaxed and Emma's flowers, including exquisite little bottles of black dahlias, viburnum and the deepest darkest hellebores ( vamped the Georgian house up a notch.
There was plenty of bubbly and book selling - my first customers were a glamourous couple called Cliff and Ash - and catching up with old friends (that's you Stefan), and meeting those who had been an integral part of the book making team: Salima, the recipe editor, Jane Beaton and Jane Aspden from Hardie Grant and Mary Bekhait from limelight Management.
Thank you to everyone who came.
Miranda x
P.S. Visit the Whitehouse ( at any oportuntiy you have. It has a relaxed vibe (bowls of sweeties on the bar) but is also a seriously glamourous boutique hotel. They do one wedding a month and have 5 gorgeous rooms. Don't save it for a special occassion - go for lunch!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Griddled mushroom and halloumi salad

This is a bit of an April to October working lunch for me. Fat mushrooms and seasonal leaves from Friday's veg box, with halloumi and chilli from the fridge and lashings of grassy olive oil and salt and pepper.

Don't be bound by specific quantities here, but as a guide I use one huge mushroom and a third of a pack of halloumi for myself. Please let me know if that's unnaturally greedy?

Slice the mushroom and halloumi into robust slices and fry together in a ridged pan for about 3 minutes a side. Towards the end, toss in a squashed garlic clove and as a much chilli as you dare. Meanwhile, make a bed of seasonal salad leaves in a bowl. Place the griddled mushrooms and halloumi onto the leaves and drizzle over the chilli garlicky oil. Season generously with salt and pepper...

...and I write this unashamedly with coffe and custard cream in hand!

Friday, 16 April 2010

I've joined the twitterati!

I joined the global tweeting community - the tweet elite - about 10 days ago thanks to my media-savvy in-laws. I'm still learning the rules, and invariably breaking them, as I go along.
It feels like a "blessed are the cheesemakers" moment from The Life of Brian; with me wondering why people are following me (not many at this stage obviously) and why, and vice versa. Even in this early stage I can feel the addiction to this instant pool of friends and their daily lives. My fledgling list includes Eddie Izzard, CERN (the large hadron collider in Geneva), Prof Brian Cox, fabulous food blogger and author of http://www.asliceofcherrypie.blogspot/ Julia Parsons and my sis in-law who got me started

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Half-Blood Orange Salad

Now is the final fling of the Tarocco blood orange from the slopes of Mount Etna, in Sicily. These are often referred to as being only half blood, because of their part-pigmented bloody interior and surface flecked with red blushes. These beauties contain the highest concentration of Vitamin C in any fruit.

Blood oranges have suffered from being re-branded, as was the former Chinese Gooseberry (aka kiwifruit), and sometimes goes by the name of a Sangria orange, which ironically translates from the Spanish as "blood".

This salad marks the transition from winter into spring and requires no dressing as the citrus juice from the blood oranges, the beetroot's roasting juices and the olive oil that gets splashed on at the end, do it all by themselves in the bowl.

2 blood oranges, peeled into segments
small bunch of beetroot

1 tablespoon fennel seeds
100g chickpeas, cooked
bunch coriander
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Scrub the beetroot and cut into chunks of just over 1cm square. Place in a roasting tin with the fennel seeds and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix together and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile place the rest of the salad in a serving bowl. When the beetroot has cooked, sprinkle it, still warm, onto the salad. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the salad, season with salt and pepper and some torn coriander leaves. This is lunch in a bowl with some hummus and bread.