Swedish Apple Cake

This is another of those recipes that came from a booklet we got with some bit of electrical kit like a mixer or a processor.  You can keep it as a whole cake but I think it’s another one that works brilliantly when cooked in a square tin and cut up into individual little square cakes then frozen and defrosted when the mood for a Swedish apple cake takes you.  The cake is cooked for longer than a lot of sponge cakes – it needs to in order to cook the apples and deal with the moisture that the apples have brought into the equation – and this means that you end up with soft sponge, melting apple and some crunchy sponge on top.  Excellent.

Excellent with coffee or tea. Also excellent as a dessert – especially warmed up, dusted with a bit of sieved icing sugar and served with cream.  

About the ingredients:
If you haven’t got cooking apples you can make it with dessert apples but be sure that they’re on the sharp side. And reduce the sugar in the sponge by about a quarter. But really you should use cooking apples.

Makes 16 little square cakes

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Ricotta Gnocchi

This recipe comes from Gennaro Contaldo – or rather, Gennaro’s mother – and I saw him make it on a BBC programme, Two Greedy Italians. It’s incredibly simple and it literally takes 15 minutes to make.

There is one very, very important thing to remember – I got this from watching Gennaro – and that is to ensure a lightness of touch. Don’t handle the dough as you would a bread dough, or even a pastry dough. Be quick and light, using fingertips wherever possible, never holding on to it for more than a couple of seconds at a time. This ensures that the dough remains light and doesn’t turn into a sticky icky goo.

Ricotta gnocchi ingredients

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Guacamole

This is what you do when you bought a rock-hard avocado ten days ago, left it in a bowl to reach ripe perfection and then forgot about it so now it’s starting to look a bit old and tired.  There are lots of different ways of doing guacamole and you can experiment with them, of course. This is what I do. Nice and simple.

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Broad Beans with feta

This is, like many salads, just a question of putting some things together and creating joy on a plate.  It’s very similar to the Flageolet Beans salad.  But different.

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Apple and Blue Cheese Salad

This isn’t really a recipe. It’s more a suggestion of how to put things together in a bowl to make a great salad. We’ve got a little guide to making salad in the How Do I… section, but for now this is a just one particular example of the sweet/sour/crunch/salt approach.  The sweet crunch of the apple and the nutty, toasted crunch of the pumpkin seeds work brilliantly with creamy, salty blue cheese.  The little kick of the chives adds another level (often a good thing to put onion in a salad) and the sharp cider vinegar keeps it good and fresh.

About the ingredients:

You can, of course, substitute different kinds of cheeses – maybe goat’s cheese or feta. Best to use something good and salty, though. And you could use a different fruit – kiwi or pear, maybe – and different herbs, different greens, different seeds. Completely change it in fact. Because you can.

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Humous

Yes, you can buy humous ready made and it’s not expensive and it’s not nasty.  But I prefer home made. It’s different. I think it’s better. See what you think.

About the ingredients:

humous ingredients

You can make this with dried chickpeas, which involves soaking overnight and then cooking for a few minutes with a heaped teaspoon of bicarb, then adding water and boiling for about twenty minutes. But it turns out that tinned chickpeas might be better for humous. They’re softer and give a creamier consistency.

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Quickest Fish Soup Ever

Fish soup can be very complicated to make. It can start with fish stock, often made out of several different kinds of fish, with the heads and the bones boiled and stinking the house out. This is different. This is the quickest thing imaginable. And delicious.

 

About the ingredients:

Lidl sometimes sells whole big Greek anchovies on special offer and they are fantastic for this soup. You can use any oily tinned fish such as sardines or mackerel. You could make it with tuna but it probably needs a good hit of some very salty anchovy fillets to go with it.

You can serve it just plain, or with a bit of cream in it, perhaps with some chives chopped in. Or you can serve it the traditional French way with croutons (just little bits of toast), some garlicky mayonnaise and some grated cheese.

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Beetroot Salad

I eat this all the time. It goes beautifully with a couple of other dishes in a meze style meal – particularly with something creamy like tuna mayonnaise, or fried halloumi – and it also goes very well with a creamy gratin such as smoked mackeral gratin or with spanokopita.

About the ingredients:

You can choose what leaves to use – baby spinach, rocket, watercress, lamb’s lettuce etc. but they need to be strong-flavoured. If you have preserved lemons they’re good instead of the fresh lemon but not essential. You can cook your own beetroot but the cooked beetroot in packets is absolutely fine. Just be sure that it’s not ice-cold from the fridge.

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Mushroom Soup

Most soups start with softening onions and other vegetables and then adding other vegetables and possibly other things too, and finally blending the whole thing. This one, from the divine Elizabeth David, is very different. It’s a lovely simple soup – Elizabeth David knew everything there was to know about unfussy food – and it doesn’t start with onions and doesn’t need blending. Like most soups, it freezes well and possibly tastes even better when it’s been left for a while or frozen.

About the ingredients:

You can use any kind of mushroom. It works fine with normal supermarket mushrooms but if you’ve got something special to add, go ahead. Also, Elizabeth David puts bacon rinds in with the mushrooms when she cooks them. I don’t eat meat so I might use a bit of parmesan rind (be sure to remove after cooking).

Makes about 8 generous servings.  Cost per serving 30p

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Chocolate Orange Cake

This has been in the family for years and years. I think our mother found it in one of those booklets that come with a food mixer. I added the idea of putting a sticky syrup on the top. Like our Crunchy Lemon Squares, I think it’s best make in a big tin and cut into individual squares which can then be frozen and eaten when the fancy takes you. If you put it in your lunchbox when it’s still frozen it’ll be just lovely by the time it gets to coffee break.

About the ingredients

Use 70% chocolate, which doesn’t have to be at all expensive. All I need to say is Lidl and Aldi. Don’t even think about using some rubbish 40% chocolate or milk chocolate because it will be just plain cheap and nasty and far too sweet. The walnuts are entirely optional. They give a little more density and, well, nuttiness to the cake but you can easily leave them out.

Makes 16 little square cakes

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