Thursday, 30 September 2010

Best Orange and Almond Cake

Orange and Almond Cake - gluten and wheat free
This is one of the best orange cakes I have ever had the pleasure of tasting and making....
the recipe came to me during the years (1989-1991) when we ventured into the tea room business... (yes that's a story for another time)...
one of the staff offered me this recipe to try...  she assured me it was the best ever... and would sell really well in the tea rooms... 
I must admit once we introduced this delicious orange and almond cake into our selection of cakes... we had customers returning weekly just to feed on the super scrumpsious orange cake... there was no way we could get away with not having this cake on the sideboard....
So here is the recipe, may you enjoy this as much as we have... 
2 large oranges
6 large eggs
200g castor sugar
250g almond meal or ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
butter for cake tin 
Wash the oranges and place in a saucepan add water to cover, replace lid and bring to the boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer for 2 hours.  Turning the oranges and keeping an eye on the water level.  After 2 hours remove the oranges from the water and allow to cool.  
You can cook your oranges the day before and keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container overnight.
Pull open the cooked oranges and remove pips.  
Place the whole orange with skin in a food blender and blend to a pulp.
In a large bowl beat the eggs with a pinch of salt until fluffy, add sugar and beat well again.
Add the almond meal and baking powder and mix well. 
Then add the orange pulp and mix again.
Use a 23cm spring form with removable base cake tin and butter and line with baking sheet.
Bake in a pre-heated oven 190C for about 60 minutes
Test with a skewer, if still wet after 1 hour, leave a little longer.
Turn off the oven, and let cake sit in oven with door ajar for approximately 30 minutes.
After you have removed the cake from the oven allow to cool for another 30 minutes and then turn out upside down onto cooling rack and remove baking sheet.
When the cake is completely cool place on a serving plate, leave it upside down.
Decorate according to taste.
- you can sprinkle with icing sugar, 
- coat top and sides with apricot jam
then add glazed orange slices 
sprinkle with almond flakes.
The choice is yours... I like the apricot jam coating all over and prefer to keep it simple... unless it's a special occasion then I will continue with more decorating with the orange slices or almond flakes.
Bon appettit!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Banana Date and Oat Cookies

Yes it's been a while since I have posted anything about food... the truth be when you are convalescing with an upper respiratory tract infection the last thing on your mind is cooking...

So I must be getting better then?...?

 Here is a delicious, yummy, and good for you, quick and easy recipe…  and great for kids snack packs.

Banana Date and Oat Cookies
This is a recipe I have used since the late 80's.  The original recipe was from the "Fit for Life" book by Marilyn Diamond, and over the years I have played with it and just added odd bits and pieces from the pantry, for a bit of a twist to the basic recipe of oats, bananas, dates.
1.5 cups porridge oats
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
4 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1/2 cup ground almonds
Pinch of Cinnamon
3 large very ripe bananas
3/4 cup dates
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/3 cup Light Olive Oil or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Raspberry Syrup (optional)

Ready to bake
Preheat oven to 175-180C.
Place all dry ingredients into a large bowl, add half the oil, and mix well.  
In a blender add the dates the raspberry syrup and remainder oil, blend to a chunky mess.  
Mash bananas with a fork add vanilla extract.
Add the dates and bananas to oats and seeds mix and mix well.
Onto a baking sheet place oval shaped cookies the size of tablespoon.  

Bake in a moderate oven 175-180C for 20-25 minutes.  Remove and cool on cooling grid.

Bon appetit!

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Saturday, 28 August 2010

Bananas - are you getting enough?

Various fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains; ...Image via Wikipedia
Have you ever thought about the goodness in the food you eat?  and if you are getting enough of your daily nutritional intake? or do you just eat what you like?
Well I was thinking about it the other day when I was craving a banana... 
yes banana... not a "gin and tonic" or "french patisserie"  but an actual banana....
sometimes I think we need to be aware of the reasons for the craving...
is it just a craving for the taste or is our body really trying to tell us something...???
have you ever thought about it?
and do you feel much better after you have eaten the food or drink you are craving?
So back to my craving for a ripe banana....
mind you I didn't want just a banana.... no the flavour I was craving was....
a banana with cheddar cheese....
Borough Market Cheddar cheeseImage via Wikipedia
you may screw up your face or gag.... but try it ... the flavours accompany each other.... perfectly...
so the facts are, bananas, as we all know are high in potassium....
which is a vital mineral for muscle and nerve function and potassium also helps to regulate blood pressure.  Maybe my body was giving out signals for bananas because I needed a dose of potassium to help regulate an imbalance in my body?  Quite possible, I hadn't eaten a banana for at least 10 days... and normally it is in my daily intake of fruit.  And then there is the cheese factor, which is interesting, especially since I prefer my white cheeses, cottage, feta and goats, and there I was craving a bit of cheddar with my banana.  Very interesting.... Cheese is a good source of protein and a rich source of calcium.... and it is well known calcium plays an important role in building stronger, denser bones early in life and keeping bones strong and healthy later in life.

If I take it a bit further .... we have some interesting facts:

Potassium is a mineral that is required in significant amounts for human health. 
Potassium - balances sodium in the body to regulate hydration. 

Functions of Potassium:
  • Regulation of pressure between the inside and outside of cells. With inadequate potassium, cellular wastes are not efficiently transported into the extracellular spaces and carried away. Toxic material is left to accumulate in the cell can cause premature cell death.
  • Conversion of blood sugar into glycogen for storage in the liver and muscles. Inadequate glycogen storage leads to physical and mental fatigue.
  • Maintaining proper pH balance of blood.
  • Maintaining proper body water balance
  • Stimulating insulin production
  • Maintaining digestive enzyme function and efficiency
  • Maintaining optimal nerve and muscle function
  • Relaxing muscle contraction in balance to calcium, which induces contraction.
Deficiency can lead to:
  • Lactic acid (and other waste metabolites) buildup in body, which leads to
    • Muscular weakness
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Paralysis
  • Problems in nerve conduction, which leads to
    • Mental confusion
    • Heart disturbances
    • Problems with muscle contraction
Calcium - is the most abundant mineral in the human body. 
About 99% is in the bones and teeth - where it plays a structural role. 
Remainder 1% is present in body tissues and fluids - where it is essential for cell metabolism, muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission. 

Low levels of calcium in the blood and tissues can cause hypocalcemia - which involves sensations of tingling; numbness; and muscle twitches. 
In severe cases muscle spasms may occur, called tetany. 
More likely to be due to a hormonal imbalance in the regulation of calcium rather than a dietary deficiency.
Excess calcium in the blood can cause nausea, vomiting and calcium deposition in the heart and kidneys
This usually results from excessive doses of vitamin D and can be fatal in infants.

Vitamin D is needed for absorption of dietary calcium - therefore calcium deficiency may be linked to rickets in children. 
In adults, calcium deficiency may lead to osteomalacia (softening of the bones). 
This may be related to repeated pregnancy with lengthy breast feeding.

Osteoporosis can be due to calcium deficiency - which 
involves loss of calcium from the bones and reduced bone density. Bones become brittle and liable to fracture. 
Bone loss occurs with age in all individuals - usually occurs after 35-40 years and involves the shrinking of the skeleton. 
Bone loss is greatest in women following the menopause - due to reduced levels of the hormone, estrogen. 
Post-menopausal women are particularly at risk from osteoporosis.

So my craving for a banana (potassium) with cheese (calcium) could easily be interpreted as a vital signal from my body...  a call for help to regulate chemical imbalances..... 
what do you know?  
next time I will be closely monitoring my cravings... 

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    Monday, 9 August 2010

    Lamb Bolognese

    bolognese, lamb recipes, italian ragu,

    Abused Italian Ragu - Ragu alla Bolognese

    My recipe for Lamb Bolognese would make an Italian chef throw his arms up in the air with dismay.  The true bolognese or "ragu" would be made with beef and served with tagliatelli and not spaghetti!

    However as I am not a big fan of beef, I prefer to cook bolognese with lamb (or turkey mince), for me it tastes just as good, maybe even better?
    I also like to add a few extra bits, all depending on what I may have on hand, sometimes the bolognese (ragu) will be simple and sometimes it will have a variety of vegetables added, like zucchini (courgette), capsicum (red peppers), and possibly eggplant (aubergine).  Yep I do like all those vegetables in my ragu (bolognese), so you can just imagine what a true Italian would be saying about my abused ragu (bolognese) recipe, maybe something like "mamma mia" with accompanying hand gestures of course!

    What bacon (pancetta)?

    I have never ever put bacon (pancetta) in my spaghetti bolognese, I know some chefs recommend you do, however for my recipe you don't need it, there is enough delicious flavour already.

    Too much Tomato

    Hey what? Apparently the use of tomatoes is suppose to be minimal, if any at all! So that must mean my ragu (bolognese) recipe is so not authentic Italian, mind you if I had started with the real Italian ragu recipe then maybe I wouldn't be making it my way, who knows? All I can say is that my family love this version of spaghetti bolognese or Ragu alla Bolognese.



    500g mince lamb
    2 x red onions
    4-5 x cloves garlic
    1-2 x carrots
    1-2 x sticks celery
    50g portobello mushrooms
    1 x zucchini (optional)
    1 x red pepper (optional)
    1-2 x bay leaves
    3-5 anchovies in oil or 1 tablespoon x anchovy paste
    2 x 440g tinned chopped tomatoes
    1 glass x water
    1/2 cup x tomato puree/paste
    cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon
    smoked paprika
    1 tablespoon x sugar
    salt and pepper
    olives (optional)
    olive oil
    1 glass x red wine (for the bolognese - and a 2nd glass wine for the cook)


    In a large pot, add a dash of olive oil, chop and saute for about 10 mins, the onions, celery, red pepper and grated carrot. 

    Chop the mushrooms into small cubes, add to pot and saute another 5 minutes.

    Remove all the sauted vegetables from the pot and put aside.

    Add a dash of olive oil, add the minced lamb and with the lid off brown the mince all over.

    Add crushed or sliced garlic, careful not to burn the garlic.

    Add tomato puree, seasoning (salt and pepper), cinnamon, bay leaves, smoked paprika and sugar.

    Give it all a good stir, make sure the mince is well coated with the seasoning and tomato paste.

    Allow to simmer for a few minutes.

    Add red wine and tinned chopped tomatoes and the water. Now add the sauted vegetables.

    Stir well and bring to a gentle boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer for approximately 2-3 hours without the lid.  Check and stir every 30 minutes.

    Replace the lid and turn down the heat if juices are evaporating too quickly.

    Serve with your favourite pasta, spaghetti or tagliatelli

    Make sure you have plenty of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese available so everyone can add as much as they like.

       Buon appetito!

    I have made this bolognese with turkey mince instead of lamb, home-made passata instead of tinned tomatoes, celeriac instead of celery stick, added chopped dried porcini mushrooms, added eggplant, added dried rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano, left out the red wine and water, and cooked it for only 1hr 30 mins instead of longer.  And it was still deliciously yummy!

    Ragu alla Bolognese is definitely a dish a recipe which can be bastardized with satisfying results!  GO AHEAD GIVE IT A TRY!

    Friday, 6 August 2010

    How to read your labels

    Do you read your food labels?  Have you every wonder what the different terms and symbols mean?

    Are you confused?  or you never bother?

    Well look here - an interactive label has been developed by Food Standards Agency's eatwell  - a consumer advice and information site. 

    To help you learn about the terms and symbols which appear on your food packaging.  

    Go ahead start investigating the foods you buy.

    Just click below to launch it. Then guide your cursor over any term or symbol you want to find out about, and an explanation will pop up on your screen.
    The definitions provided are for guidance only.

    Click here to view the interactive label

    About the Food Standards Agency

    The Food Standards Agency was set up by an Act of Parliament in 2000 to protect the public's health and consumer interests in relation to food.

    The FSA's guiding principles are: 
    • putting the consumer first
    • being open and accessible
    • being an independent voice

    Although the FSA is a Government agency, it is independent, which means it works at 'arm's length' from Government because it doesn't report to a specific minister and is free to publish any advice it issues.

    Saturday, 31 July 2010

    Cumberland Pork Sausages

    If you are going to make me eat sausage they better be served with onions...

    lots of onions... and fried tomatoes.....

    and my favourite sausage is cumberland pork...

    next would have to be venison...

    anyway here is a quick and tasty way to have your sausages...

    eaten for breakfast of course.... but also very good any time... especially when you just feel like having a bit of pork sausage.... yum.. yum..

    6 x cumberland pork sausages
    3-5 x medium sized red onions
    4 x 6 medium sized tomatoes
    Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
    Olive oil
    2 x slices brown bread, toasted

    In a non-stick fry pan add a dash of olive oil and add your sausages, whilst you are browning the sausages on all sides, peel and half the onions and cut into slices.

    As soon as the sausages are brown move to one half of the fry pan and add the sliced onions.

    Now add 3-4 dashes of worcester sauce over the onions and give it a good stir.  Place a lid over the fry pan and turn down the heat to a medium simmer.  Careful not to burn the sausages or the onions.

    Whilst the onions and sausages are simmering, cut the tomatoes into thick slices, about 4 slices to each tomato.

    When the onions are half way done, add the tomato slices to the fry pan, move the onions onto the sausages, and slide the tomatoes under everything.

    Place the lid back onto the fry pan, and allow to gently simmer again, checking there is enough liquid, in the pan so nothing burns.  You may need to turn down the heat if the juices in the pan are boiling away.

    Keep simmering until you have a nice pan full of juicy tomato gravy with sausages and onions swimming in it.

    Now toast the brown bread, cut into triangles and place on your plate, dish up the sausages, with the tomato and onion gravy.  You can serve with some Dijon mustard on the side.    Bon appettit!

    Monday, 26 July 2010


    Baked Left-over Delight

    What to do with those left-overs….. 

    Sometimes no matter how good your intentions of eating those left-overs the next day or the next day… you just don't seem to get around to it.   

    There's the invite down to the local pub or let's have fish and chips tonight and the good old left-overs from the roast dinner or the quick stir fry keep sitting in that fridge…  hoping to get eaten! 

    So before you go throwing out those goodies which tasted fantastic when you had that roast dinner or the stir fry … check the contents of your containers and just see what you have… maybe there is an imaginative meal in there…  apart from just reheating or having bubble and squeak (which seems to be a popular dish here in the UK) … get a bit more creative…. 

    You could chop up the vegetables add an egg or two, extra herbs and seasoning, mashed potatoes or breadcrumbs and make some delicious vegie patties or fritters!  Want protein add some tinned salmon or grated cheese… salmon and veg patties… or cheese and veg fritters … sounds good already!

    Chop the vegetables into cubes

    Or as I have done this time you could combine both lots of left-overs - left-over roast vegetables with peas and the small amount of  mushroom gravy and stir fry vegetables with a hint of curry. 

    The idea was to make a quick lunch-time snack, something that can be eaten cold or warmed up, on it's own or with a salad.  So I settled for a baked vegetable dish, sort of frittata style (see my Spinach and Salmon Frittata recipe).  

    My left-over containers consisted of roasted parsnip, pumpkin, carrots, a couple of roasted garlic cloves and a  very small amount of  mushroom and onion gravy and in the second container I had stir fried zucchini (courgettes), carrots, broccoli, celery, red peppers (capsicum) and onions.  And of course there was a pathetic small slice of roast lamb and a similar sized slice of turkey breast with the stir fry veg.

    First I chopped up all the vegetables and the meat into really small cubes, then I seasoned with extra ground black pepper, then into a bowl added 3 eggs, 3 tablespoons double cream, and 2 teaspoons cornflour, mixed well and added to the vegetables. 

    Ready to be placed into oven
    Then I buttered a rectangular baking dish and coated it with finely grated pecorino romano,  poured the vegetable mix into the dish, decorated with sliced tomato, a sprinkle of coriander and black pepper.
    Then baked in a preheated oven at 180C for 25 minutes  and then turned down the heat to 160C for 20 minutes.  Then let the vegetable dish rest in the oven for 10 minutes after turning off the heat.

    Baked Left-over Delight served with Green Salad and Potato Salad

    Serve with green salad  and potato salad (which I also made from left-over boiled potatoes). 

    All good and a wholesome lunchtime treat!


    Monday, 19 July 2010

    Travelling Gourmet!

    Tarte au Citron in Patisserie Valerie in Canterbury  
    I am now back to normal everyday life (whatever that is?)...
    and it is a whole week since my mother and baby sister left us to return home to Oz...

    Pistachio Loaf with Mascarpone in Caffe Espresso at Harrod's
    after a whirlwind three weeks in the UK.

    Meal on Eurostar "Leisure Select" travelling to Paris
    My husband and I had a great time taking them here, there and everywhere and we all had a great time eating our way around the country!

    Lobster Salad in 58 Tour Eiffel, Eiffel Tower, Paris

    So I thought it would be fun to share some of the food photos we remembered to take whilst touring...

    Slightly Smoked Salmon in 58 Tour Eiffel, Eiffel Tower, Paris
    of course the best meal was in 58 Tour Eiffel, Eiffel Tower, Paris.... so delicious... highly recommended...

    Sauteed Veal Chop with Artichokes in 58 Tour Eiffel
    it was the only time I really wished my stomach was much bigger... we ended up sharing a desert... just fantastic.... wish I had two stomachs....  here is the menu we chose A la carte at time of booking... so glad we did... absolutely superb...

    Seared Scallops in 58 Tour Eiffel
    sometimes we were all just soooo.. hungry or soooo... tired we totally forgot to take photos of our meals...

    Profiterole with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce in 58 Tour Eiffel

    and other times we remembered half way through eating or at the end ...

    Homemade Fraisier in 58 Tour Eiffel
    with nothing to show but empty plates... oh well ... as they say in France.. c'est la vie!

    Quick snack in hotel room in Paris before our river cruise
    May you enjoy !
    Baked Chestnut Mushroom in Jamie's Italian, Bath, UK

    Courgette Fritti in Jamie's Italian, Bath, UK

    Wild Garlic Tagliatelle in Jamie's Italian, Bath, UK

    Blackboard special  - Flounder and Funky chips in Jamie's Italian, Bath, UK

    Scallop and Squid Ink Linguine in Jamie's Italian, Bath, UK

    Amazing Chicken Salad in Jamie's Italian, Bath, UK
    A glass of spa water in Pump Room, Bath UK

    Asparagus with pesto in Pump Room, Bath, UK

    Prawn Salad in Pump Room, Bath, UK

    Crab with beetroot crisps in Pump Room, Bath, UK