31/01/2014

Apple and pear spread (unsweetened)

apple and pear spread
Apple and pear spread
Makes about 500-600ml (2 cups)

Ingredients:
4 medium apples
4 medium pears
juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp vanilla extract

Method:
Peel, core and chop the fruit roughly. Put in a pan with a little water. Cover, and simmer gently until it is very pulpy. 

Cool for half an hour or so, then blend - with a stick blender if possible. Add the lemon juice, spices and extract, then simmer, stirring, until thick. Cool and keep the spread in covered containers in the fridge or freezer. It will keep for about a week or more in the fridge, several months in the freezer. 


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This is a good alternative to jam, for spreading on bread or toast. Even if you use fairly tart apples such as Granny Smith, the sweetness of the pears counteract this, and the cinnamon provides sufficient taste that the lack of added sweetener is not obvious. You can experiment with different spices if you wish.

Note too that the quantities of fruit are approximate - use more or fewer as you wish.

However, since there is nothing to preserve this spread, it will not keep very long at room temperature, and only for about a week in the fridge.  I tend to decant it into small plastic containers, as in the photo above, each holding about 200ml, and freeze them until needed.

24/01/2014

Apple Bundt Cake

Apple bundt cake
apple bundt cake
Makes 1 cake to serve 10-12

Ingredients:
3 medium apples
2 tblsp soft brown sugar
1-2 tsp cinnamon

375g plain or part wholewheat flour (US: 3 cups)
3 tsp baking powder
400g sugar (US: 2 cups)
250ml olive oil (US: 1 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
166ml orange juice (US: 2/3 cup)

Method:
Heat the oven to 175C (350F). Grease and flour a ring or bundt pan with about 25cm (10 inch) diameter.

Peel, core and chop the apples into thin slices, then place in a bowl with the soft brown sugar and cinnamon. Leave for flavours to blend.

Meanwhile, in another (large) bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk. Slowly beat in the oil, vanilla extract and orange juice. When blended, fold in the flour and baking powder carefully using a metal spoon.

Pour about half of the batter into the prepared ring tin, then place the apples on top to cover. Top with the rest of the batter.

Bake for about an hour, then cool for a while in the tin before turning out carefully onto a wire rack. 


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A bundt cake is technically baked in a ring mould with sloping sides. It's not something in our culture - but just over a year ago we re-watched the DVD of 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' with some friends, and started discussing bundt cakes afterwards. We had a loose-bottomed ring cake tin, about 25cm across, so a couple of days later I hunted around online and found various recipes.

The one that looked simplest - and which used apples, of which I had several - was for a Dutch apple bundt. I decided that I did not need as much sugar as listed to sprinkle on my apples and that soft brown sugar would be much nicer than regular white sugar. I reduced the cinnamon, since to our British tastebuds many American recipes have too much of this spice, and I also reduced the vanilla extract since most cakes use just one teaspoon.

apple bundt cake with flowersThe original recipe called for 'all purpose' flour, but I always like to use at least half wholewheat flour. It might be possible to use entirely wholewheat. Freshly squeezed orange juice is of course the best kind, but in the UK many people buy orange juice in packets, and since it just provides necessary liquid and a little flavour, any kind could probably be used. Or even apple juice, for those who want to avoid citrus products.

I found the most difficult part of this recipe was turning the cake out, as it stuck to the inside of the ring despite the greasing and flouring. It felt quite fragile so I was worried that it might break, but it was fine. We ate it with our friends, who provided a little spray of flowers as a nod to the film!

17/01/2014

Keema

Keema
Keema
Makes about 6-8 servings

Ingredients:
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons garam masala
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 - 1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
750-800g minced beef (US: about a pound and three-quarters)
800g canned or frozen tomatoes (US: about 28 ounces)
140-150g tomato puree (US: about half a cup)
300ml stock or water (or leftover wine)

Optional:
100g red lentils, rinsed
200g chickpeas, cooked; or frozen peas


Method
Cook the onions and garlic in a large saucepan in the olive oil until well softened. Add all the spices, and stir for about a minute, then add the mince and continue cooking and stirring, mixing into the onions, until it starts to brown.

If using lentils, stir them in at this stage.

Add the rest of the ingredients and keep stirring until it reaches the boil. 


At this stage you can transfer it to a crockpot and simmer for 4-6 hours on 'medium'; alternatively, cover and simmer gently for about an hour, stirring occasionally to ensure that it does not burn.

Adjust seasonings if necessary, and serve over rice or baked potatoes, with a large salad or cooked vegetables.

Chickpeas or frozen peas can be added towards the end of the cooking, for authenticity.


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Keema is a traditional South Asian dish made of mince, often with added potatoes or peas. There are a variety of different ways of seasoning this, so feel free to adjust the spices according to taste. My original recipe only used garam masala, ginger and cumin; I make it a policy to add turmeric to anything like this, due to its health properties, and when I tasted it during cooking, I felt it lacked much 'kick', so I added the chili powder. Some chili powder is much stronger than other forms, so be careful with this.

There still seemed to be something missing, so I added some cinnamon, and it felt just right. However, different people like different spice combinations, so it's worth experimenting. Equally, if you can't stand one of the spices listed, or don't have it in your cupboard, you can leave it out.

Some recipes for keema include 200g yogurt, stirred in at the end; this will add a bit of taste, but obviously makes it unsuitable for dairy-free eaters.