September is finally here, although you wouldn’t know it. I dug out all my cosiest knits over the weekend and was reunited with my favourite fluffy grey jumper. I very proudly threw it on to head off to brunch with the dog and husband on Sunday only to end up throwing it in the wash when I got back because it was drenched in my sweat. Lovely. Why does September always do this to us? Just when you let yourself get excited for colder days, jumpers and boots chunky enough to crunch through fallen leaves, one of those trademark September scorchers suddenly arrives. Sadly my favourite fluffy jumper is going to have to wait for a while, but there is one Autumn tradition that’s well and truly under way in my house and that’s Autumn baking – especially with apples.
One of my lovely neighbours gave me a bag full of cooking apples the other day and I cannot wait to get stuck in making making Apple Fritters, Apple Cookies and of course, my favourite Apple Pie Cake. But the truth is that I got a head start on the Apple Bakes back in August when I whipped up this Apple Rag Pie. The original recipe comes from Nigella Lawson, who made a traditional Greek Rag Pie using feta, sesame seeds and plenty of honey. Problem is, I’m not a big fan of Feta, but the basic idea was definitely something I wanted to try and so I switched out the cheese for spiced apples and toasted flaked almonds. Crunchy and packed full of juicy spiced apple chunks, it’s not only a doddle to make but is banging served hot with a blob of ice cream and packs a little extra punch from some Calvados soaked sultanas. It also freezes well, so whip it up now and it’ll be there waiting for you when those cold nights really begin to draw in. 🙂
4 apples, skinned, cored, chunked (…is that a thing?)
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
100g caster sugar
100ml Calvados (or regular Brandy)
50g toasted, flaked almonds
Place the sultanas in a bowl, pour over the Calvados Brandy and leave to soak ideally overnight or until they’re plump and drunk. 🙂
Boil the apple chunks in water until they’re soft, but still hold shape. Drain, sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon and then set aside.
To assemble the Rag Pie; line the base of a deep rectangular baking tray with one layer of filo pastry, then brush with a little melted butter. Next, separate the remaining filo sheets into three equal piles. Take the first pile; tear and scrunch the sheets of filo – loosely balling them and placing them into the tray (careful not to press down!). Scatter over half of your apple mix and sultanas, then pour over a little more melted butter. Repeat the process with your next pile of filo.
Scrunch and tear the last layer to top the pile, then pour over the last of the butter. Section the pie into equal slices with a sharp knife, being very careful not to squash down your layers of filo (otherwise you’ll get a soggy pie). Whisk together the eggs and milk, then pour over the pie. Top with the toasted, flaked almonds.
Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes at 180°C and serve hot with ice cream or whipped cream.
(You can also freeze it and cook it from frozen, just pop it in a cold oven, then heat it up at 180°C for 45 minutes. 🙂
I don’t know about you but I am officially done with the 30°C heat. In a country that rarely sees the mercury creep above 25, it’s been HELL; I mean, my house is made for drizzly Welsh winters, not stinking, sticky hot summers (emphasis on the ST-ICKY) – and neither am I. On a recent shopping trip I stumbled across an aisle full of thick woolly jumpers and winter coats and let me tell you, I am so ready to feel that cool September bite in the air. And while I’m not ready to say goodbye to the sunshine yet, the summer fatigue I get every year around this time has definitely started to set in.
Hopefully we’re done with the sweat and the humidity for now, but just in case we’re not – here’s the perfect antidote. I absolutely love fresh lemonade – and if you’ve never made it yourself before then why not? It’s an absolute doddle; there’s a reason why kids out in the states set up lemonade stands in the summer (American readers, do they really do that? Or is that just “Disney America?”). But limeade somehow, tastes even better – maybe because it feels just a little bit more grown up, especially with plenty of fresh mint. If you’re planning a late summer BBQ or picnic then you can’t go wrong with a ready made iced pitcher of the stuff – and you’ll be pleased to know it takes less than twenty minutes to make up. Shake some up ahead of the weekend and keep it chilling in the fridge and ready to pour for up to five days.
makes enough for 1 pitcher
200ml fresh lime juice (from approx 5 limes)
150g caster sugar
zest of one lime
mint leaves to garnish
Squeeze as much juice out of your limes as possible into a saucepan (don’t worry if you get some pulp in there; you’re going to strain all that out later). Add the lime zest, cold water and caster sugar, then gently bring it all to the boil – by which time the sugar should have completely dissolved.
Strain the liquid into a clean bottle/pitcher and then leave to cool.Before serving, give it a taste test and add a little more water if you find that it’s too strong.
Serve over ice with a slice of lime and fresh mint. (…and maybe a shot of Tequila? *shrugs* I don’t know…) 😉
time to level up your bog standard chicken salad sandwich…
I’m currently writing up this post at 4am with bat hair and Bungle snoring soundly at my feet (git). Turns out that one of the many charming side effects of pregnancy is a total inability to catch some Zs at night. AND THE BABY ISN’T EVEN HERE YET. From 2am until 5am I can currently be found either wrestling with the massive doughnut pillow I bought off of Amazon (you know, the one that’s supposed to HELP me sleep), or scoffing biscuits in front of back to back episodes of Escape to the Chateau in the dark. I’m knackered. And I’d quite like to move to France – apparently derelict chateaus go for pretty cheap.
Thankfully, when it comes to a lot of the other pregnancy symptoms – I’ve got off likely so far. I haven’t had any morning sickness (other than a weird one off the other week that could just as easily be put down to polishing off a large chips from the local chippy…), and I’ve been able to carry on eating pretty much all of my favourite meals and foods bar the few that I’m not allowed – like sushi. But I’ve even got that covered now; as soon as I saw these Katsu Onigiri over on Pinterest, I knew I had to give them a go myself and come up with my own recipe, and here it is. Crunchy chicken katsu fillets, lots of fresh greens and pickles coated in sushi rice and wrapped in nori – polished off with a drizzle of sweet and smoky Tonkatsu Sauce. Yum!
Chicken Katsu Sushi Sandwiches
4 chicken breasts
salt and pepper to season
1 large egg, whisked
50g plain flour
100g panko bread crumbs
150ml vegetable oil
300g sushi rice
1 tbsp mirin
1 avocado, sliced
4 spring onions, sliced
pickled purple cabbage
sesame seeds, to garnish
For the Tonkatsu Sauce:
4 tbsp ketchup
4 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp runny honey
2 tsp soy sauce
First, cook your sushi rice according to the pack’s instructions, stir in the mirin with a wooden spoon and then set aside and leave to cool.
To make the Katsu Chicken, first wrap the fillets in clingfilm and tenderise with a rolling pin until slightly flattened. Next, unwrap and season then with salt and pepper. Set up a production line of bowls, each filled separately with the flour, whisked egg and panko bread crumbs. Coat the fillets in flour first, then dunk them into the whisked egg, following up with an even coating of panko breadcrumbs.
Add the vegetable oil to a shallow frying pan and cook the katsu fillets over a medium heat, ensuring they’re golden brown and fully cooked on both sides.
Next, make up your Tonkatsu Sauce; add all the ingredients to a bowl and stir until completely blended.
Now you can make up your sushi sandwiches! First, lay out a sheet of nori and add a thin layer of sushi rice in the middle. Next layer up with your sliced avocado, spring onions and pickled cabbage, followed by a katsu fillet. Give it a good drizzle of Tonkatsu Sauce, then mirror a layer of avocado, spring onion and pickled cabbage on top – finishing with a bit more sushi rice. Sprinkle cold water around the edges of your sheet of nori, then fold the corners inwards – parcelling up your sandwich. Slice in half and then garnish with some more Tonkatsu Sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Repeat step five with the other three fillets. 🙂
Have a lovely week (and pleeeeeeeeease send sleepy thoughts my way 💤 )!
For a sub-lime (ha ha) slice that’s perfect with a G&T…
…Not that I’m allowed an ice cold gin and tonic at the mo (see previous post). I mean I’ve got a bottle of non-alcoholic gin that’s absolutely lovely – but it’s just not the same, alas. At least I can still load up on plenty of cake – and this little lime number really hits the spot on a hot afternoon when you’re looking for a bit of a zing in your doorstop wedge.
Although not technically a Key Lime Cake since you’d need to use special Swingle Limes from the Florida Keys to own that title, it’s definitely a bit of a love note to one of my favourite places on the planet and to the massive slices of Key Lime Pie I like to scoff when I’m lucky enough to be there. The sponge is buttery and moist – thanks to a good dollop of sour cream – with just enough of a hint of lime, while the icing’s where the punch is packed thanks to plenty of zest, juice and boiling down the lime leftovers for an added flavour boost (I bet you could add a shot of gin too if you were feeling a bit frisky... 😉 ). The perfect summer, afternoon cake – and it’s dead easy to make.
Easy Lime Cake
For the cake:
2 large eggs, whisked
130g softened butter
130g caster sugar
130g self raising flour
2 tbsp sour cream
zest and juice of half a lime
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
For the icing:
200g icing sugar
zest and juice of half a lime
leftover lime skin
candied limes (optionl)
Set your oven to 160C (fan) and grease a 15cm cake loose -bottomed cake tin.
In a large bowl, cream together your butter and caster sugar – then pour in the whisked eggs. Stir to combine.
Next, sift in the flour, followed by the baking powder and salt.
Stir in the sour cream to create a soft, airy batter. Fold in the lime juice and zest(save the skin – you’re going to use it!)
Pour the batter into your greased baking tin, then bake for 40 minutes until golden brown.Leave to cool.
Whilst the cake is baking, pop your lime skin in a saucepan with 100ml of water and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer on a low heat for around 20 minutes.
Once the cake has cooled, whip up the icing. Combine your icing sugar, lime juice, zest and lime water. Ice the surface of the cake and then decorate with halved, candied limes if you like. If you’ve never made candied peel before then check out this post.
…Oozing with plenty of homemade strawberry jam and Chantilly Cream…
When it comes to summer cakes, you just can’t beat the basic (but beautiful)Victoria Sandwich. To paraphrase the famous glutton Mr Joeseph Tribbiani, what’s not to like? Cream, good! Jam, gooooood! It’s a classic; the kind of cake that’ll please everyone if you turn up with it at a picnic or at your Mum’s front door on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I mean you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t like a plain sponge cake, sweet cream and strawberry jam. Better yet, it’s very easy to make – even if you’re a bit of a baking noob. The classic, base recipe involves weighing your eggs first, then matching up with the exact same quantities of butter, caster sugar and self raising flour – but I’ve experimented and come up with a slightly more refined recipe with a little added baking powder and buttermilk for a buttery, moist but airy sponge. Sandwiched with a layer of slightly runny homemade strawberry jam (easier to make than it sounds and absolutely worth the added effort) and some piped Chantilly Cream (fancy pants for double cream whipped with a bit of powdered sugar and vanilla – yum yum), you just can’t go wrong. 🙂
Picnic Perfect Victoria Sandwich Cake
For the cake:
175g butter (softened)
3 medium eggs, whisked
175g self raising flour(sifted)
70 ml buttermilk
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
For the jam:
100g fresh strawberries (pitted)
100g jam sugar
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
For the Chantilly Cream:
200ml double cream
50g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
The night before baking, prepare your jam strawberries; remove the leaves, slice them and then pop them in a bowl. Sprinkle with caster sugar, then leave in the fridge overnight.Sounds odd, but while you’re at it, put a small plate in your freezer – it’ll come in handy later.
Set the oven to 160C (Fan), and grease your baking tin of choice. (I like to use a deep, 10cm loose-bottomed tin and then slice the cake in half once it’s cooked. But two 20cm sandwich tins will work just as well.)
Cream together the butter and sugar, then stir in the eggs.
Stir in the sifted flour, salt and baking powder. Gently fold in the buttermilk.
Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for around 40 minutes if you’re using a deep tin, and 25 minutes if you’re using sandwich tins – either way, an inserted skewer or knife should come out clean.
Once the cake is cooked, leave it to cool. Meanwhile, start making the jam; pop your juicy, pre-prepared strawbs in a saucepan and then either blitz them with a hand-held blender, or mash them. Add the jam sugar and lemon juice to the saucepan, and then gently heat the mixture on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved completely.Resist stirring!
Turn the heat up to a roaring boil and leave the jam to bubble for up to 10 minutes. Remember that plate in the freezer? That’s going to give you a helping hand in working out when your jam has cooked. Every couple of minutes, take a small teaspoon of jam and drizzle it onto the ice cold plate – when you turn the plate vertically, if the jam runs then it’s not quite done. If it sticks in a blob and doesn’t seem in any hurry to go anywhere, then it’s ready! If like me you prefer your jam a little runnier, take it off the heat when it runs slightly, then sets on the plate.Once you’ve reached that stage and the jam is cooked, take the saucepan off the heat and pour it into a ready sterilized jar to cool and set.
Once both the cake and the jam have cooled, you can whip up your Chantilly Cream – which is as simple as throwing the cream, icing sugar and vanilla bean paste into a bowl and then whisking them together until thick and airy.
To assemble the cake, sandwich the two halves with a layer of jam and a layer of Chantilly Cream – then decorate with some extra cream, icing sugar and fresh strawberries.