Summer is on the way

At last a spell of warm weather.

You may remember that this time last year, we were having our small extension being built. It too was a little on the warm side but we were unable to enjoy the garden. The lovely builders had taken over and it turned into a building site. Those 10 weeks or so seemed to last forever – were we ever going to be able to enjoy opening up the patio doors and enjoy the garden.  A garden that would in fact be an extension itself of the larger kitchen we had created? Fear not, as at last the 2 sets of French doors are fully open, the warm sunlight and air is pouring into the kitchen.  The song birds are singing and feeding off the bird feeder – with the occasional pigeon being shooed off and the radio is happily providing a wonderful summer soundtrack.

Summer is definitely on the way!

The countdown is also on for early summer holibobs, a family trip to Cornwall – we cannot wait! We had once said that we would never need to go back to the same place for a holiday.  There is so much to see – having both had some experience of travelling before we met – you realise that the world is both small and big. Small because really, everything is within easy reach, jumping on a plane a zipping to the other side of the world is relatively simple.  I say relatively, because when you then start to have children the world can then seem big.  Packing for 2 is ridiculously easy, when packing for 4 – 2 of whom are small children –  a holiday take on a whole new meaning. As we found out last year when we travelled to Abu Dhabi. So this year, a staycation. To somewhere we have been before, to a location we know and love. Where we know the children will be able to relax and have fun. To a company – Beach Retreats – that has some rather nice holiday cottages – with a washing machine to relieve the load before returning home and straight back into work! With less than a 5 minute walk to a beach, free of surfers and a gentle (ish) wave on which to body board. We cannot wait. A chance to recharge, re-engage, to take stock, remember who we are and be thankful for the opportunities we have. I almost don’t care what the weather will do – we have wet suits – we can get wet in the sea.  I can almost smell the sea from here.

Cornwall – we are on our way

Oh yes a cake. I was getting carried away.

Preheat the oven to Gas 3, 140c, 130c fan and line a deep 8″ cake tin.

For the cake;

  • 220ml vegetable oil
  • 200g gluten free self raising flour
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 eggs
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 jar (320g) of lemon curd – I used a jar of Co-op All butter Lemon Curd

For the strawberry mousse. For which there are several other recipes on-line.  The addition of the egg whites, makes the covering very light.  You could remove the egg whites and increase the amount of cream to 300ml if you wanted to just use a cream covering.

  • 200g fresh strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 180ml double cream
  • 2 egg whites

Really easy – pop all the ingredients into your mixing bowl (I used the mixing bowl of my stand mixer) and whisk for about 4 – 5 minutes until all the ingredients have fully combined and you have a lovely fluffy mixture. You will need to stop mixing half way through and scrape the sides of the bowl down and give the whisk attachment a little shake as the lemon zest could stick to it, but then continue to whisk.

Pour into the cake tin and bake slowly for 60 – 70 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.  Allow to cool before carefully, removing from the tin, then fully cool on a wire rack.

Once cool, slice the cake horizontally – to create 3 layers of finished cake.  The cake should be around 6cm high – so slice at 2cm intervals to create 3 fairly even discs.

Place your first disc onto your cake stand, spread with roughly half of the lemon curd, place on a second disc, spread with the remaining half of the jar and place the third and final cake disc on top. Put to one side, covered, until you have made the strawberry mousse.

First of all take 150g of the fresh strawberries and 1 tablespoon of sugar and with a food mixer, blitz to a puree. Or push the strawberries through a fine sieve and add sugar to taste. Add this to the double cream and whisk until thickened and fully blended.

Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until light and fluffy, then add the other tablespoon of caster sugar and whisk in for about a minute.

Mix a third of the egg whites into the cream and strawberry mix.  Then fold in the rest of the egg whites into the cream mixture until you have no fluffs of egg whites. Cover your cake – top and sides – and place in the fridge for around 4 hours – or overnight.

Decorate with the remaining strawberries – slice and serve.

 

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Just one more rhubarb cake

I was going to follow the recent trend of Lemon and Elderflower cake baking and bake a gluten free version. It would make complete sense of course, what with a Royal Wedding and all, instead this one contains rhubarb. I am all for a Royal Wedding but could you get enough Lemon and Elderflower Cake from available cake outlet? Rhubarb is available  for what appears to be a very short while, I decided to make the best of this super versatile fruit/veg. With additional thanks to our lovely neighbour and her abundant allotment 😀😀 If you really wanted to, you could swop out the rhubarb for lemon curd instead. I kinda like the extra addition 😀😀 Plus I got the chance to make my own curd! Two versions in fact…… one was a bit runny, the second just about right.

Now it depends on how you like you curd. A bit tart, or a bit sweet? This one sits a bit on the sweet side, as I have stewed it with the addition of sugar and Elderflower cordial. When eaten with the cream cheese frosting we found it gave a very smooth eat. All the flavours in one mouthful 😀. This cream cheese frosting though……..😋😋😋😋

 

Firstly to make the curd (slightly adapted from a recipe from an Asda recipe) with some for additional baking or tasting.

Chop 500g of rhubarb and place into a suitably sized saucepan, with 100g caster sugar and 60ml Elderflower cordial and cook over a medium for approx 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft.

This next bit is easier with a hand blender, so blend away for a couple of minutes until you have a nice fruit purée. With no hand blender, push the stewed rhubarb through a fine sieve to break down the stringy bits of the rhubarb.

The purée should be cool enough or the next step;

3 eggs

40g cornflour

50g diced butter

Whisk the eggs and the cornflour together and whisk into the rhubarb purée and place into a clean saucepan and put in the butter.  Now for some patience. Warm gently over a low heat until lovely and thick. Using a suitable spoon stir continuously, you will notice the mixture thickens as the eggs cook out and the cornflour thickens. I also used a thermometer to ensure the temperature reached at least 75c. As the mix begins to thicken you may need to use a whisk so that you can blend out any lumps that may form. This could take about 10-15 minutes. Take care not to heat too quickly otherwise you will scramble the eggs. Once thickened, push once more through a sieve into a suitable bowl, to remove any lumps and leave to cool completely.

For the cake, pre heat the oven to Gas 3, 140c fan, 160c and line a 8” deep round cake tin. This is a one tin cake to slice into 3 once cooked and cooled.

5 large eggs

240g gluten free plain flour

zest of 2 lemons

220g caster sugar

240ml vegetable oil

Place all the ingredients into a mixing bowl (I use a stand mixer) and whisk on medium speed for about 4 minutes until the mixture is fully combined and is light and fluffy. Pour the whole batter into the prepared tin and bake long and slow for 60 – 70 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool before removing from the tin.

Once cool, slice the cake into 3 pieces – horizontally.

Then time to make the frosting.

200g cream cheese

300g icing sugar

120g soft butter

160ml Elderflower cordial

Beat the butter into the cream cheese for about 2 minutes, stir in the icing sugar and 40ml of cordial before beating until fully combined and you have a lovely velvety frosting.

To assemble – with the additional cordial

Place the 1st slice of cake on you stand and drizzle over the surface about 40ml of cordial and pipe some of the frosting around the rim of the cake and spread some of the curd into the middle of the cake slice. Place on the second slice and repeat. Place on the third slice of cake, drizzle over 40ml more of cordial and cover the top with the frosting.

If you can,  leave for about an hour or so, to let the cordial soak into the sponge before serving.

Store in the fridge for best results

 

Rhubarb Rhubarb

Now this wasn’t the blog I originally wrote for this post.  That one was a little on the heavy-handed side with lots of finger-pointing and generally having a moan.  Life is too short to for that, so we’ll keep this as positive as we can….

Something new of recent years, is being asked about dietary requirements when (Noah is) attending a children’s birthday party. Naturally we respond accordingly and then also take our own food.  It’s just a lot easier to know Noah will be able to eat something and not ask questions – ‘have you got the packaging so I can check the ingredients?’. Invariably the packaging has been thrown out, meaning we have to miss out, as we have no idea what the ingredients are.  The trouble is for a 7-year-old, he just wants to fit in, he wants to be the same.  He doesn’t want to eat something wildly different, so when something different turns up – pizza delivery for example – he won’t eat his packed lunch. Understandable really.

And when it goes well? Its amazing. Our hearts do a little jump for joy, in fact it practically brings on tears.  Of course Noah will have absolutely no idea what is going on, he’s just joining in and being a 7-year-old. This has only happened twice (twice that we can remember with such an emotion).  The first time was actually a little contrived, as I had to swop out the items from a pre-made/put together lunch box and supplant with the packed lunch we had bought. To this day Noah still thinks it was specially made for him – and until he reads this, I’m not telling him. The second was at one of these soft play centres. They just made the decision to cook everything gluten free – at their expense – it was just so much easier than producing one gluten free meal and a dozen or so ‘ordinary’ meals. I don’t think the centre understood how much this meant to us as parents.  The relief that Noah could eat the same as everyone was almost too much. Noah (and us) were able to just enjoy the party.

To those of you that read this and have children or cater for children parties take heed – ask and think. It does really make a difference and in the long-term we have no idea what kind of physiological issues are at play.

So now for something of comfort, in what seems to be the verge of spring, just one step away from warmer climes…and this is an actual gluten free ‘crumble’ top 😀😀

Pre-heat the oven to gas 5, 190c, 175c fan

Chop the following into bite size chunks;

  • 250g rhubarb
  • 200g strawberries

and place into your round serving dish (I used a Pyrex dish)- roughly 20cm wide and 6cm deep then sprinkle with;

  • 50g caster sugar

Into your food mixer/blender (or you could use the tips of your fingers to get the breadcrumb effect);

  • 30g Gluten free plain flour
  • 150g Rice flour
  • 30g cornflour
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 20g gluten free oats
  • 150g butter – cut into small squares
  • 90g light brown sugar
  • 30g Demerara sugar

Blend all this together until you have fine breadcrumbs and tip onto the fruit.  Even out and place into the oven.  Bake for about 30 minutes until the surface is lovely and golden and the fruit is cooked. Cool a little before serving.

Eat with custard, cream or leave and enjoy cold.

It won’t keep very long – as it’ll all get eaten 😀