There’s been a lot of focus on Asian flavours in my kitchen lately – now that Spring has arrived I’m craving lighter, zingier food so I’m stocking up on citrus fruits, chillis and lots of fresh vegetables.
My two favourite Asian shops are the Asia Market in Ballymount and the Eurasia store in Fonthill – as those of you who come to my classes are well aware! Both are like Aladdin’s Caves full of wonderful and exotic ingredients – and I have to admit a number of which I have no idea what to do with – I would love someone to take me on a tour and explain how to use these ingredients. I regularly buy something which necessitates a google search before I can use it ! (hints on using dried Japanese plums welcome!)
Okay so I finally started a blog and decided on a theme – now my dilemma was which cookbook got to open the show!
Thanks for all your suggestions and I will get round to them all I promise – even to Hugh (eventually….) !
The problem was solved by the amount of apples in my kitchen demanding to be used (thank you to all my wonderful neighbours). I decided to stew and freeze some of them and then remembered a recipe for a ‘sauce’ cake. Cue Sophie Grigson’s Country Kitchen
This book was a Christmas present from my sister after my time in Ballymaloe Cookery School and her inscription ‘to the petite chef with the big ideas’ still makes me smile! The splashed pages and the handwritten notes will convince you that this is one of the workers in my collection – I love the Rhubarb & Honey Compote, and her sweet & sour red cabbage is a Christmas must.
In the introduction the book is described as ‘a record of a year’s cooking in a country kitchen – but with a modern twist’ . This is borne out in recipes such as ‘pot-roast pork with star anise, ginger. tamarind and port’ or ‘cauliflower with sundried tomatoes, garlic and capers’ .
The book is laid out by season with beautiful photographs and informative notes on ingredients. The recipes are well laid out and easy to follow and most importantly they work! My biggest peeve is that it doesn’t have a photograph for every dish – I like to know what I’m aspiring to!
My favourite and most used from this book is Sophie’s recipe for ‘Gooseberry Sauce Cake’ – simple and quick and adaptable for most fruits. I’ve tried it with gooseberries, rhubarb, plums and most recently with apples and the result is a lovely moist cake everytime!
So if like me you’re overrun with apples you should give this a try:
Apple Sauce Cake
What you need:
10oz/280g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
40z/110g caster sugar
40z/110g demerara sugar
4oz/110g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 pt/300ml stewed apples
the original recipe includes 1/2 tsp salt which I omitted as I use salted butter
What you do:
Firstly stew your fruit – I used a mix of sweet and cooking apples as I like the difference in texture. Peel, core and chop the fruit. Then stew with a little water over a low heat for 20-30 mins. I didn’t use any particular quantities as I froze the rest of the fruit in 1/2 pint portions for future cakes!
When fruit is stewed to your liking measure out 1/2 pt for your cake (btw apologies for any confusion and if I appear old fashioned but I tend to bake in imperial and cook in metric!)
Mix all your dry ingredients – flour, baking powder and sugars together
Fold in the lightly beaten eggs, melted butter and vanilla extract. Finally stir in the stewed apples.
Pour mixture into a lined 9″/23cm springform tin and sprinkle a little extra demerara sugar over the top.
Sophie’s instructions are to bake the cake at 180C/Gas 4 for 45 minutes. Having tried it on several occasions it takes 30-35 minutes in my oven at 170C Fan so I’d advise you to check it after 30 mins!
Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10-15 mins before turning out. Then there’s nothing left to do but serve it with some lightly whipped cream!
There are lots more recipes in this book that I’ve earmarked to try and as this is the first year my pear tree has produced any fruit next up is Sophie’s fresh pear relish……….
I love books – I grew up in a house full of them – and one of my best childhood memories is going with my Dad to the bookshop to buy a new one as a weekly treat (and the row that ensued one week when I refused to pick ‘Robinson Crusoe’!)
I still consider buying books a present to myself and there are some that I’ve had for years that I could never get rid off. And then there’s my cookbook collection…………
Those of you who know me on Twitter will know that I suffer from a ‘slight’ cookbook addiction and that cookbooks have a tendency to follow me home from shops!
Surely a girl can never have too many shoes or cookbooks?
I have approximately 200 cookbooks (well 188 to be more precise!). I know this because due to recent house-painting they all had to be removed from the shelves so allow the painters near the walls and I took the opportunity to count them!
The true number probably exceeds 200 as I found a few more today which had obviously been mis-filed! And then of course there’s the collection of booklets, food magazines, recipe files; not to mention the five lever arch folders from my time at Ballymaloe ( cookingisfun.ie)!
As I was re-filing them I noticed that while some were much thumbed and much-loved there were others had barely been opened but were sitting there like trophies (yes Gordon I’m talking about you!)
So then I had an idea – why not use my cookbook collection as the basis for my blog (with a few other bits & bobs thrown in of course!) . All those books that are sitting there looking pretty will now have to pay their way! I’m challenging myself to work through them and try a recipe a week and give my tuppence worth on the book!
Now I need to examine my collection carefully and select the first star………………Any requests?