Chocolate Chunk Cherry Cake

It is a little early to be talking about cherries in the UK… a few months early… but it is exciting to see cherries ready on the trees. We might even get some this year instead of the birds. They have already done an excellent job of eating the cherry and plum tree leaves – I had no idea they were that tasty… :/

We were given a bag of cherries from a friend who takes the left overs from a market for her chickens and gives us a huge portion of it to feed little piggy and chooks. Some were on the turn, queue cherry baking time.

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I’ve got a favourite cherry cake recipe (find it here Cherries) but I was lacking in some ingredients and, to be honest, I wanted chocolate cake ūüėõ

So I trawled the internet to find a chocolate one that had the ingredients we had in the house. I had just enough to make one from https://www.kitchensanctuary.com

It is most definitely not my own creation even though I would love to take credit for it, but it is so delicious that I think the word should be spread. It is a new favourite chocolate cake.

Flourless with ground almonds, fresh cherries, chocolate chunks in a chocolate cake, lovely gooey texture Рwhat is not to like?!

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Chocolate Chunk Cherry Cake

(Serves 10)

-225g butter, softened -200g granulated sugar -1tsp vanilla extract -4 eggs -200g ground almonds -50g cocoa powder -1tsp baking powder -100g dark chocolate -100g dark or milk chocolate cut into chunks -200g fresh cherries

  1. Preheat oven to 170C. Line a 20cm/9inch deep cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the softened butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Mix in the vanilla extract and the eggs one at a time until well incorporated into the mixture.
  4. Stir in the ground almonds, cocoa powder and baking powder, mixing well to combine.
  5. Melt 100g of dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over the hob or in a microwave. Mix into the cake mixture followed by the chunks of unmelted chocolate.
  6. Scrape the contents of the bowl into the prepared baking tin.
  7. Remove the stems from the cherries and cut them open, removing the stones from the centre. Scatter the cherries over the top of the cake’s surface.
  8. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin before transferring to the wire rack to cool completely. It is also delicious served warm.
  9. When completely cold, store in an airtight container for up to three days.

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Recipe: Celeriac Mash

I’ll confess – I was originally making celeriac soup, but it ended up as a sort of mashed potato like variation.

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With just the addition of some fried onion, salt and pepper, this versatile dish makes an excellent addition to any dinner with lots of veg sides or as a different replacement for mashed potato.

To learn about Celeriac, click here.

Celeriac Mash

(Serves 6-8) 

-2 large celeriacs -one large onion -olive oil -200-400ml boiled water -dash of salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel the celeriacs and cut them into think pieces. Place them on a non-stick roasting tray, dribble olive oil over the top, and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until just starting to turn crisp. Leave to cool.
  2. Slice the onion and fry in olive oil until golden brown.
  3. In a food processor, add the celeriac and the fried onion. Blitz.
  4. Add a little of the boiling water and blitz again. Continue to add boiling water until you get a mashed potato looking consistency. Add the salt and pepper and blitz again.
  5. Tip the contents of the food processor into a non-stick deep based pan and bring to the boil.
  6. Serve hot or cold.

Tip: why not add some freshly picked herbs? Thyme, oregano, rosemary, coriander, parsley, sage, lemongrass…

Ps. roasted celeriac sliced thinly can make great chips. 

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Mushroom Quinoa Pot

SO… I never did get quite round to growing my quinoa this year.

I’ve finished uni and am now off to the next training course so the veg patch and blog have been neglected this year. But that does not mean that we can’t dream for the future! Fancy growing your own quinoa? Take a look at one of my oldest blog posts here:¬†Quinoa

Despite not growing it this year, how about a little veggie recipe to inspire you?

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Mushroom Quinoa Pot

(Serves 2)

-1 large onion, sliced -Olive oil, for frying -450g tomato passata/ sauce -100g quinoa -8 button mushrooms -4 oregano leaves -Sprig of thyme -1tbsp soy sauce -1 1/2tbsp Worcester sauce -Rocket, to serve

  1. Slice the onion and place in a non-stick pan with the olive oil. Fry until golden brown and then add the tomato passata or sauce.
  2. Add the quinoa and bring to the boil.
  3. Cut the mushrooms into fine slices and add, stirring in. Reduce the heat to simmer and cover with a lid. Leave for approximately ten minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the quinoa has cooked and absorbed some of the tomato sauce.
  4. Tear up the oregano and thyme and stir in followed by the soy sauce and Worcester sauce. Leave to simmer for another few minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and serve along with fresh rocket.

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Blueberry Oats

Some nice little berry biscuit treats. Very simple, only uses three ingredients, vegetarian/gluten/vegan friendly. Cooked blueberries are surprisingly delicious…

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Blueberry Oats

-4 medium sized ripe bananas -1-3cups of porridge oats -1 cup of blueberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a square tray with baking parchment.
  2. Mash the bananas in a bowl.
  3. Stir in the oats with a fork, a cup at a time, until the oats seem to have absorbed the banana. The mixture should cling together, like a biscuit mixture, and be a little sticky. Be careful not to overdo it with the oats so that it is too dry.
  4. Stir in the blueberries.
  5. Scrape the contents of the bowl onto the prepared tray. Using the fork, press down onto the mixture, smoothing it out over the surface of the tray. You want it to be thinnish and flat. Think flapjacks.
  6. Cut the flattened mixture into squares before placing in the centre of the oven and cooking for about 10-15 minutes, or until the oats are golden brown and the blueberries are cooked.
  7. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Blueberry Lemon Cake

Come on summer…

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Blueberry Lemon Cake

-225g granulated sugar -2tbsp lemon juice -180g plain flour -2tsp baking powder -Pinch of salt – 1/2 cup of milk -1/2tsp vanilla essence -3 large eggs -1tbsp lemon juice -1/2 cup vegetable oil -300g blueberries -1/4tsp plain flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 20cm/9inch deep circular baking tin with baking parchment.
  2. Mix the sugar and the lemon juice together. Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Mix in the milk along with the vanilla essence. Then mix in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice and the vegetable oil.
  4. When it has mixed well, add the blueberries with the 1/4tsp of plain flour and gently mix in.
  5. Scrape into the baking tin and bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 1hr or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. Leave on a wire rack to cool in the tin before turning out the cake onto the wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Harvesting in January

So I have a confession…

I have not worked in the vegetable garden at all this Christmas break.

I know, very bad. But I was juggling work, university work and working in the pig run to prevent it from resembling the battle of the Somme over winter. Those are my only excuses.

Despite my lack of care, the garden has looked after itself pretty well (the grass is thriving in all of the beds it should not be in…)

It has been so long since I worked over there regularly that I had actually forgotten what I still had planted and left to harvest. I had forgotten the kale, the rest of the sprouts and carrots, the tree cabbage… all I thought we had left were potatoes. So I made a big effort and harvested and prepared lots of our produce during the week.

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Carrots: these are the last of the carrots sown this year. They were under horticultural fleece and managed to survive some of the freezing temperatures we had suddenly. Not one has rotted so thank goodness we are on sandy soil. They were delicious and not a lot of damage or forking going on. We even had one gorgeous proper sized carrot!

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Think they are ‘Flyaway’ carrots.

Celeriac: first homegrown celeriac harvested from this crop. I know, lazy. But it was in really good condition, a good size, and tasted really good. I like to boil mine but roasting them makes an excellent replacement/accompaniment to roasted parsnips as they apparently taste the same. I have also eaten it raw, grated with apple, in a salad and that is surprisingly good too.

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Brussel Sprouts – the left over small ones from Christmas finished up. They did really well and packed a punch to the taste-buds.

Kale – the kale is still alive and doing pretty well despite the various slug/pigeon/ cabbage white attacks it had this year. I do love kale boiled and it goes great in stews, on top of pizzas, in casseroles or stir fries. Kale is brilliant because it fills in the cold ‘hungry gap’ aka, winter, when most other things aren’t available.

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Garlic – I sneak up a bulb every time I need it. Garlic is still prolific in our garden from years of growing it.

Potatoes – Too. Many. Luckily, they taste really good and are in pretty good condition.

All of this dinner was homegrown, except the lentils. Self-sufficient and proud of my little garden for doing so well all on its own.

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Mum’s Baked Apples

Happy New year everyone!

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Here is a little winter/autumn warming treat to see you through January and February, and a great way of using apples left over in storage from the harvest of 2018.

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Mum’s Baked Apples

Serves 6

-6 large baking apples -3/4 cup dark brown sugar -1/2 cup raisins -1/2tsp ground cinnamon -1/4tsp grated nutmeg -1tbsp butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Wash and core apples, then remove a 1-inch strip of peel around the middle of each. Arrange the apples in a baking dish, 2-quart shallow.
  3. Combine the brown sugar, raisins, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Carefully fill the center of each apple and dot with 1/2tsp of butter.
  4. Add just enough water to the baking dish to cover the bottom. Bake, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes, or until the apples are tender (larger ones will take longer). Baste the apples with the juices occasionally.
  5. Serve the apples warm. Left-overs can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Pumpkin Soup

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I haven’t made a lot of soups in my time – carrot and coriander once years ago and a vegetable broth at River Cottage – but I have always wanted to make pumpkin soup with a homegrown pumpkin.

We did really well with the pumpkins this year and after my siblings had carved their spooky faces into two of them for Halloween, I turned one of them – forgotten which one, might have been Bob or Reg… – into soup. Cruel, but it was either that or feed him to the pigs.

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Here is my super-duper easy pumpkin soup. You could add more seasoning to it of you would like more flavour. I have heard suggestions of chilli and peanut butter before…

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Pumpkin Soup

Serves… a lot. At least ten people.¬†

-1 medium sized pumpkin, 1.5kg, de-seeded -Olive oil, for roasting and frying -1 large onion, sliced -700ml boiling water -1 generous tsp Bouillon vegetable stock powder – A pinch of salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the pumpkin up into chunks and place on a non-stick baking tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil and place in the centre of the oven. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin wedges are cooked and perhaps browning a little. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  2. In a deep-based pan, fry the onion in olive oil until golden brown.
  3. Place the pumpkin and the onion in a food processor and blitz until mush.
  4. Add the tsp veg stock powder to the boiling water and mix well. Slowly pour into the food processor and blitz the pumpkin again.
  5. Scare the contents of the food processor into the pan and bring to the boil, stirring. Add the pinch of salt.
  6. Serve hot in bowls. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Can be frozen too.

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Red Cabbage

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Just look at that red cabbage… homegrown and harvested from the plot yesterday.

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It was the first time I have ever grown red cabbages before and I thought it was so beautiful, I decided to eat some. I went from cabbage hater, to ‘green cabbages are ok’ to ‘wow, red cabbages are good cooked too!’

Why should we eat cabbages?

89g of raw cabbage contains –

  • Protein: 1g
  • Fibre:¬†2g
  • Vitamin K:¬†85% of the RDI
  • Vitamin C:¬†54% of the RDI
  • Folate:¬†10% of the RDI
  • Manganese:¬†7% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6:¬†6% of the RDI
  • Calcium:¬†4% of the RDI
  • Potassium:¬†4% of the RDI
  • Magnesium:¬†3% of the RDI

Vitamin B6 and folate are essential for many important processes in the body, including energy metabolism and the normal functioning of the nervous system.¬†Cabbage is especially high in vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that may protect against heart disease, certain cancers and vision loss.¬†While both green and red cabbage are excellent sources vic C, red cabbage contains about 30% more.¬†One cup (89 grams) of chopped red cabbage packs in 85% of the recommended intake for vitamin C, which is the same amount found in a small orange. So I might avoid Fresher’s flu…

Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage contain many different antioxidants that have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation. Sulforaphane, kaempferol and other antioxidants found in brassicas are likely responsible for their anti-inflammatory effect.

Cabbage is full of gut friendly insoluble fibre, a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down in the intestines. Insoluble fiber helps keep the digestive system healthy by adding bulk to stools and promoting regular bowel movements. Cabbage is also rich in soluble fibre which has been shown to increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut. These bacteria perform important functions like protecting the immune system and producing critical nutrients like vitamins K2 and B12. Eating cabbage keeps your digestive system happy.

Red cabbage contains powerful compounds called anthocyanins. They give this vegetable its vibrant purple colour.¬†Anthocyanins are plant pigments that belong to the flavonoid family.¬†Many studies have found a link between eating foods rich in this pigment and a reduced risk of heart disease.¬†Cabbage contains more than 36 different kinds of anthocyanins…

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How to eat it?

Raw is probably best as most of the nutrients will be withheld that can sometimes leave during the cooking process. But I find raw cabbage icky. Steamed is the next best, followed by boiled, roasted, fried.

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We boiled it and ate our red cabbage with lots of other homegrown produce for dinner – potatoes, sweetcorn, green Savoy cabbage, carrots, runner beans and courgette. It was beautiful and yummy and helped to ease my sore gut that had been suffering all day. See – homegrown produce is so good for you!

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Update: one more pumpkin left to harvest… the other plants have all turned brown and died from powdery mildew so I cut their fruits off and took them inside to cure (more information here for those who are interested:¬†Curing pumpkins). I’m leaving the last one on to make sure it ripens more and will take it away when the plant finally has to go.

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Blight has hit the veg garden and the potatoes are starting to go – thank goodness it came so late this year as the main crop potatoes have managed to grow properly before the disease came. The tomatoes are going to suffer and I am expecting a lot of green ones to fall off soon but we did pretty well with the red tomatoes being grown outside this year in this once in a lifetime heatwave.

The autumn harvest of raspberries is being as wonderful as always. We had them last night for dessert along with homemade chocolate brownie ice cream and cookies and cream ice cream (recipes can be found on my Beagle Baking blog:

https://bellasbakingsite.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/chocolate-fudge-brownie-ice-cream/

https://bellasbakingsite.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/cookies-and-cream-ice-cream/  ).

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Update: 1st September 2018 – Sweetcorn

Harvested our first sweetcorn of 2018 yesterday, and I think it is our best yet.

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Fully grown, yellow kernels, picked just at the right time. Not tough and old, but completely tender and sweet.

We grew our usual Swift F1 seeds this year. We started them off in tall yoghurt pots of compost indoors in May. Once they were big enough to handle and the frosts were over, we planted them outdoors into fertilised earth in direct sunlight. With the glorious sun in June and July along with a vigorous watering schedule, the actual sweetcorn plants grew huge, are tallest yet, going past my 5’3 at least.

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Sweetcorn are pollinated by wind rather than insects. You want to get the dust from the tops of the plant onto the tassels below that will become the sweetcorn if pollinated. I did a lot of hand pollinating this year, due to the lack of wind, and thank goodness it seemed to work!

To check if the sweetcorn is ready to harvest, you wait until the tassels have become dark brown instead of white, basically died back. You then gently peel apart the green skin of the corn and insert a finger nail into one of the kernels – if the liquid comes out milky white, it is ready. If not, leave it for a couple of days before checking again.

Now this is important: harvest your sweetcorn only the you are about to cook it. As soon as you take that cob off the plant, its sugar starch degenerates rapidly, straight away. This means the taste of the cob decreases in yumminess very, very quickly. You are advised to bring a large pan of water to the boil before you pick your cob!

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Perfect cob! Cooked and put in the bowl in readiness for kernel removal…

To cook the cob, remove the green outer leaves and tassels. Plop the whole cob into the boiling water and leave to boil for a couple of minutes. Remove and put to one side to cool. You can either serve sweetcorn whole as corn on the cob with some butter, or, standing the corn in a large bowl, using a knife, cut down the sides of the cob, scraping the kernels off. You can then serve the sweetcorn kernels without the cob or you can freeze them like this in plastic bags, as they will take up less space in your fridge. Cooking and freezing locks in the sugar starch and preserves the taste and goodness of the sweetcorn.

Voila!

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Sweetcorn kernels scraped off and served for lunch.

Does anyone else think of Pocahontas when they see sweetcorn with the green leaves still on?

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‘Just around the river bend…’¬†

That film’s got sot some cracking good songs.

Other fun news: made tomato passata last week and last night I used it to make homemade pizza.

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That means that our dinner used homegrown onion, garlic, perpetual leaf spinach, oregano and tomatoes!

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Shame the mozzarella and cheddar, olive oil and bread flour or yeast weren’t home produced… but at least the pizza base was homemade!

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Recipe for pizza can be found here: Updated recipe: homemade pizza and information about growing sweetcorn can be found here: Sweetcorn