Strawberry Tea

Summer!  A time for BBQs, sunshine into the lazy evenings, drinks on terraces and trips to the beach.  But not necessarily a time for afternoon tea.  In my opinion, tea and cake (pleasant as that combo may be) really belongs to the more blustery days of autumn and winter.  But sometimes on a June afternoon (and in my case rather too often if truth be told) rather than that cooling glass of lemonade or sticky ice lolly, I crave a coffee and slice of something sweet.  And it is also true that friends come round for tea even in the summer.

These occasions call for a cake that’s a bit different to something you may wish for on an autumn day- something lighter and more pillowy but still has a decent crumb.  Above all it needs to be packed with plenty of seasonal fruit.  This berry cake is just the ticket for a summer’s afternoon tea.  I’ve added apricots too, which add a bit of tart sweetness.  You could top this with a dusting of icing sugar or maybe some toasted flaked almonds, but I find that a dollop of creme fraiche is all I need.  Serve with pots and pots of tea or coffee. 

Strawberry and Apricot Cake

You will need:

85g unsalted butter, plus a bit extra, softened
200g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
150g caster sugar, plus extra
1 large egg, beaten
240ml milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
500g strawberries and apricots, hulled and halved

Method:
 

1. Preheat oven to 170 C and grease a 20cm cake tin (ideally with a loose bottom) with the extra butter.  Dust with a little sugar.   In a bowl, toss the fruit in a little extra sugar to coat and set aside.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium sized bowl.  Beat the butter and 150g of sugar until light in colour and fluffy.  Use electric beaters if you prefer!  Gradually add the milk, egg and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture.

3. Pour the cake batter into your prepared cake tin.  Working quickly, lightly press the sugar-coated the fruit into the cake.

4.  Bake until cake is golden brown and coming away from the sides of the tin, approx 1 hour.  Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling.  Serve warmish or a room temp. 

Pumpin’

I do love the way pumpkins look- their knobbly shapes and autumnal colour, not to mention all the weird and wonderful artistic reinterpretations you get this time of year.  But if I’m honest, when it comes to flavour I’d rather have a butternut squash.  The brutal truth is that the pumpkin is quite bland.  It hardly tastes of anything at all.  The biggest favour you could do it is to puree and reduce it down to its most concentrated and thus most flavoursome form before sticking it in a pie.  But even then it needs a lot of spice to really shine.
 

Having said that, one pumpkin can go a really long way in terms of feeding the masses, so it gets bonus points on that front.  And there are ways to use it that work really well, either with other ingredients to lift and bring out its sweetness or as a way to add moisture and texture.  And don’t forget that the seeds are edible too and make for a great snack. 

Here are some ideas to make your pumpkin go further.  These three dishes all came from one medium sized pumpkin.

To enhance the flavour:

Roast pumpkin, lemon and sage risotto.

You will need:
To serve 4

300 g pumpkin, cut into wedges, skin on
olive oil
sea salt, pepper
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 lemons, zested and juiced
200g risotto rice- arborio or carnaroli
100 ml white wine or dry vermouth
1 L good quality chicken or vegetable stock
Parmesan
A bunch of sage leaves, torn

Method:

1.  Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.  Lay the pumpkin wedges on an oven proof tray and drizzle liberally with olive oil.  Scatter with salt an pepper and bake until just tender, about 40 mins.

2.  Chop the onion and mince the garlic.   In a large, heavy-based pan, sweat the onions in some olive oil over a medium heat.  Add the minced garlic, the zest of one lemon, a few torn sage leaves and the rice and mix well.  Fry these for a minute or so, allowing the rice to absorb some of the fragrant oils in the pan.

3.  Add the white wine and vermouth and allow to bubble away.  Once reduced, begin adding the stock, about a fourth at a time.

4.  Cook until the rice is just tender with a bit of bite to it and the liquid has been absorbed and you have a creamy consistency.

5.  Add the chopped pumpkin and lemon juice/zest to taste as well as a good grating of Parmesan. Allow to come together for a minute or two.  Serve in hearty bowls with a grating of cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and some more sage. 

To add umph to a cake- This recipe is adapted from this one I found on the BBC Good Food website.  I had some leftover coconut milk kicking about, so I used this for sweetness instead and reduced the amounts of honey and sugar.  To add more coconut flavour, add some essence or replace 50g of the flour with 50g of dessicated coconut. 

Pumpkin, Ginger and Coconut loaf

You will need:

50g cooled melted butter
75 g honey
1 large egg
150 ml coconut milk
1 tsp coconut essence (optional)
250g grated pumpkin
100g light muscovado sugar
350g self-raising flour
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp demerara or light muscovado sugar

Method:

1.  Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C.  Butter and line a loaf tin.

2.  Combine the flour, muscovado and ginger in a small bowl.

3.  In a large bowl, beat together the egg, honey, butter, coconut milk, essence and grated pumpkin.

4.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until well combined.

5.  Pour into your prepared loaf tin and  sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

6.  Bake for an hour until golden and cooked through when tested with a cake tester.  Allow to cool before slicing and spreading liberally with butter. 

Waste not want not:
Smoky Pumpkin Seeds

When carving your pumpkin, it is generally assumed that you scoop out the fleshy innards, including the seeds and chuck them in the bin.  Don’t.  Save the seeds- pop them in a bowl and into the fridge until you have a spare 15 minutes and you’ve got the oven on.  

You want it to be set to 200 degrees C and have a large oven tray to hand.  Spread your seeds onto this and remove any stringy bits of pumpkin flesh.  Sprinkle with lots of sea salt, more than you think you’ll need, pepper and some paprika.  Drizzle with a good slug of oil- olive if you have it, but plain will do too.  Roast in the oven, giving the seeds the occasional shuffle about, until golden and toasted.  They’ll keep for about a week and make for an irresistible nibble. 

Orange and Honey Polenta Cake

I made this cake some time ago now and (shock! horror!), took the photos on my old camera- it pains me now to think how much better they would have looked on my swanky new number.  But I hope this doesn’t detract from this wonderful, moist tea time treat I adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe.   I love baking with polenta and nuts instead of flour- it gives a subtle, nutty flavour and it absorbs moisture incredibly well, particularly the syrup used here.  I can also trick myself into thinking it is more virtuous than a cake made from white flour.  Enjoy with a middle eastern twist- some sliced oranges and mint, maybe drizzled with a little orange flower water if you have it to hand. 

Orange and honey polenta cake

You will need:
220g butter
220g caster sugar
150g almonds
150g ground almonds
3 large eggs
150g polenta (the quick cook variety is best)
1 tsp baking powder
zest and juice of 1 orange

For the syrup:
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 oranges
4 tbsp honey

Method:

1.  Line the base of a non-stick, loose-bottomed cake tin (20cm diameter will do nicely) with a piece of baking parchment. Set the oven at 180C/Gas 4.

2. Beat the butter and sugar in a food mixer till light and fluffy. Add the almonds.

3. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork, then add to the mixture.

4.  Mix the polenta and baking powder, then fold into the mixture, together with the grated orange zest and juice.

 5.   Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 30 minutes, turn down the heat to 160C/gas 3 for a further 25 -30 minutes or until the cake is firm.  If it begins to burn or caramelise a bit on top, cover with tinfoil. 

6. To make the syrup, squeeze the lemon and orange juice into a pan, bring to the boil and dissolve in the honey.  Bubble away for about 5 minutes until you have a syrup. 

7.  Spike holes into the top of the cake (still warm and in its tin)with a skewer then spoon over the hot citrus syrup. Leave to cool before transferring from the tin. Serve in thick slices with thinly sliced fresh oranges and a little mint.  

Tea Time- banana bread without the flour

I’m continuing on with my adventures in flourless baking.   And seeing as I frequently seem to have a couple of bananas in my fruit bowl quietly going brown and mushy, perfecting a recipe for a flourless banana bread seemed not only obvious, but imperative.  Not in the grand scheme of things, but, you know, on a micro-level.

I feel like I’ve really nailed it with this recipe.  It has that light bready texture without the density normally associate with flourless or gluten-free baking, despite the addition of pulpy banana.

To make the cake completely gluten-free, you could of course use gluten-free oats.  This recipe is also relatively low in sugar, as I find that the over-ripe bananas lend more than enough sweetness for my palate.   You may, however, prefer to make your loaf a bit sweeter by adding an extra 100g or so of caster or brown sugar (which would give the bread a more caramel flavour). 

Flourless Banana Bread

You will need:

4 over-ripe bananas – mashed
3 eggs
100ml oil
120g casterl sugar
350g gluten free self-raising flour
100g oats
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
2 tsp zantham gum 
Water

Method: 
 

1. Place all ingredients except water in a large mixing bowl.

2. Mix everything together until well incorporated.  If batter seems too stiff, add a bit of water by the tablespoonfull. 

3. Pour into greased loaf tin (a 2lb or  22cm long by 11cm wide by 6.5 high loaf tin and bake at 180 degrees until brown and ‘springy’ when the top is pushed gently – about 30 minutes.  Keep an eye on it and cover with tinfoil if getting too brown.
4. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin.  You could now leave the loaf to cool down completely, however, it is pretty fantastic whilst still a bit warm, spread with butter. 

Berry Scones

Scones have become massive in Sweden in recent years.  I think they’ve come to stand not just for all things quaint and English, but for an easy, quick shortcut to wholesome domesticity.  You can, after all, throw them together in about half an hour.  But whereas over here there seems to be very little deviation from the classic recipe (apart from a debate about self raising vs plain flour and bicarb),  a quick search on google.se reveals a plethora of varieties.  There are plenty of takes on the chocolate scone, as well as combinations like olive and sun-dried tomato, chili and Parmesan and even the (very Swedish) cardamon.  And on www.scones.se you can find recipes using flours ranging from rye to spelt and everything in between. 

I’m more of a purist so my recipe is pretty square, although it is nice to have a bit of variety on occasion.  The following recipe is the mildest of twists on the classic with roast berries lightly dotted through the dough in quite a subtle, but pleasantly surprising way.  And because scones are normally served with berry-based jams anyway, the combination of soft, sweet fruit and fluffy scone feels pretty natural. 

I roast the berries first to dry them out a little and intensify the flavour and then serve them with soured cream or Greek yogurt, for a bit of sour kick.  However, there is of course nothing at all to stop you lashing on the clotted cream.  And because the sweetness from the fruit is already there, you could even forgo the jam and save yourself getting involved in an argument over what accompaniment is spread on top first. 

Strawberry and Blueberry Scones
You will need:
225g/8oz self raising flour
pinch of salt
55g butter (very cold)
25g caster sugar 
150ml milk
1 free-range egg
Berries- I used strawberries and blueberries (a large punnet’s worth, basically)

Method:

1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.  Slice the larger berries and lay onto a lined baking tray.

2. Bake the berries in the oven, until dried out and beginning to crisp- about 15-20 minutes.  But keep an eye on them!  They burn quickly.

3. Meanwhile, put the flour and salt in a large bowl and rub in the butter.

4. Stir in the sugar and milk.

5.  Once the berries are done, take them out of the oven and turn up the heat to 220 degrees C.  Leave to cool slightly before adding to the dough.   Gently combine to evenly distribute.

 6.  Knead the dough on a (very) floured work surface- it will be a pretty sticky dough, but you can add more flour if it is totally unworkable.

7.  Roll out the dough into a circular shape, about 2cm thick.  Cut out pie-shaped triangles, you should be able to get about 8 out of it.

8.  Brush the triangles with the beaten egg or milk if you prefer, to give them a nice sheen. Bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden.

9.  Leave to cool slightly before tucking in.