Peanut Caramel Slice

If you have a packet of miso paste in the fridge, bought for a recipe which only required a tablespoonful or two and you’re wondering what to do with the rest, this is the recipe for you. If not, go and buy some.

Miso paste keeps for weeks in the fridge and is a useful addition to all sorts of dishes, both sweet and savoury. It adds an intensity of flavour known as umami, the fifth taste sensation after sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Try adding a tablespoonful to your next casserole or bolognese sauce.

This yummy slice has miso in the shortbread base where it combines with the other ingredients to make a very moreish snack. If you like peanut brittle you will like this slice which is totally addictive. If you don’t have any miso you could just leave it out.

Shortbread base:
125g butter at room temperature
5 Tbs sugar
1 egg yolk
1 Tbs miso paste
1 cup flour
2 Tbs cornflour
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
Caramel:
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs honey
50g butter
Good pinch of chilli powder (optional)
250g salted roast peanuts
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line the base of a 9″ (22cm) square cake pan with baking paper and grease the pan. Place butter and sugar in food processor and mix till creamy. Add egg yolk and miso then lastly the flour, cornflour, salt and baking powder. Mix well, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Put blobs all over the base of the tin, then press it to a uniform thickness with slightly damp fingers. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

Meanwhile, heat brown sugar, honey and butter in a saucepan until melted, stirring. Add chilli powder, peanuts and salt and mix well. Put blobs all over the shortbread base, then spread evenly with a knife. Put back in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Cool for 20 minutes, then cut into about 20 squares while still warm. Keep in an airtight tin. If kept in the fridge the slice will be more chewy. As an after dinner nibble cut the pieces in half again so you get 40.

Makes about 20 pieces

Variations: use slivered almonds, roughly chopped macadamias or a mixture of nuts instead of the peanuts.

Sponge Cake with Jam and Cream

Hill House is a dairy farm located on the heather-clad moors of County Durham, in the very north of England. I learnt to make this sponge cake when staying there in my early teens. Unlike a Victoria Sandwich, an egg sponge doesn’t contain any butter.

My Dad’s cousin, whom we called Auntie Vina (pronounced Vyna), taught me to make many of the cakes I still make today. My first sponge cake turned out so well I made another one and entered it into the Butterknowle annual agricultural show’s cooking section and won First Prize. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The sponge in the photo got a bit overcooked on the sides, as you can see in the photo, but it still tasted good. I always think of my dear old Dad when I make this cake as it was one of his favourites.

3 large eggs
2 tbs warm water
¾ cup sugar
1 cup plain flour
Filling:
¾ cup raspberry or strawberry jam (preferably homemade)
1 cup cream, whipped
Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and water until very thick and tripled in volume. Add flour through a sieve and fold in carefully with a metal spoon. Scrape into a 20cm cake tin, greased and bottom lined with baking paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until well risen, golden brown and firm to touch in the middle. Don’t overcook. Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then run a knife around the outside and invert carefully onto a cake rack.

When cold, remove paper from the bottom, then turn over. Cut sponge in half horizontally, then cut the top layer into 8 slices – this makes it easier to cut the cake after it has been filled. Fill with jam and whipped cream. Place the 8 slices back onto the uncut bottom layer and sieve some icing sugar over the top.

Chocolate Sponge: use ½ cup self-raisig flour, ¼ cup cornflour and ¼ cup cocoa. Omit the jam and fill with whipped cream.

Note: if you make the cake in a tin with a larger diameter you need to increase the ingredients, otherwise it comes out thin and unimpressive. So for example with a 22cm tin use 4 eggs, 3 Tbs water, 1 cup of sugar and 1¼ cups of flour.

Ebelskivers – Danish Apple Pancakes

We bought this antique copper dish in a market in Damascus in the late 1970s.
The photo shows the back of it. I’ve always used it as an ornament and it never occurred to me to use it for cooking.

In Syria it was probably used for cooking eggs. It certainly wasn’t for making Danish apple pancakes, but I decided to give it a try.

Ebelskivers are traditional Danish pancakes with applesauce in the middle. Danes eat them with red jam and cream, but we ate them as they are, coated in cinnamon sugar.

I halved the recipe I was given by a Danish friend while we were living in Copenhagen and made 21 little pancakes in my Syrian baking dish. I cooked the first seven on the stove top, but it was difficult to control the heat and they got a bit overcooked. The next two lots of 7 were baked in the oven and came out perfectly.

The good news is that having brushed each hole with melted butter the pancakes didn’t stick, which was my biggest worry. My Syrian copper dish has been moved into the cupboard with the other baking dishes. If you don’t have a special tin for making ebelskivers use a muffin pan.

1 cup SR flour (or 1 cup plain flour and ½ tsp baking powder)
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground cardamom (optional)
1 Tbs sugar
Pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
1 cup buttermilk
2 egg whites
50g butter, melted
Apple sauce (apples cooked with sugar and some spices and pureed)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
To serve:
Red jam
Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place flour, bicarbonate of soda, cardamom, sugar, salt, egg  yolks and buttermilk in one bowl and the egg whites in another. Using electric beaters whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Then mix the ingredients in the other bowl using the same beaters.There’s no need to wash them, but it’s important to do the whites first, while they are clean. Fold whites into batter.

Brush each hole in the baking tin with melted butter. Spoon a tablespoonful of pancake mixture into each, then about half a teaspoon or so of apple sauce, then another tablespoon of pancake mix. Bake for 10 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Coat each pancake with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.

Serve warm as they are or with jam and cream.

Makes about 20

Roasted Peas with Brown Butter & Garlic

Yotam Ottolenghi has taught me that all vegetables taste better roasted rather than boiled in water, the way our mother’s and grandmothers cooked them. Maybe not yours, but certainly mine. They knew how to roast potatoes, parsnips and pumpkin, but anything green went into boiling water. Roasting Brussels sprouts, asparagus and cauliflower takes them to a whole new level.

This recipe didn’t come from Mr Ottolenghi but from Pinterest, where you can find quite a few versions. I’m not going to give exact quantities. I used less butter than the recipes called for, so I’ll leave it up to you. Don’t be put off by the amount of garlic because the roasting makes it soft and sweet.

I served the peas with salmon topped with a mixture of finely chopped ginger and Thai sweet chilli sauce, baked in the oven on a tray lined with baking paper for for 8-10 minutes at 200°C.

Frozen Peas
Butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peeled cloves of garlic (about a dozen?)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place the peas in a sieve and run hot water from the tap over them, drain and put in a bowl. Heat a large knob of butter in a saucepan until it turns golden brown. How much butter is up to you and depends on how many peas you are doing.

Add the butter, garlic cloves and seasoning to the peas. Line a baking tray with baking paper and tip the peas onto it, spreading them out into one layer. Bake for 10-20 minutes, turning once or twice. Time will depend on the size of the peas.

Variations: add some finely diced bacon or frozen corn kernels.

Kaiserschmarm

This torn apple pancake is an Austrian speciality. The name translates as “Emperor’s mess”  after the Emperor Franz Josef, who apparently liked it so much he ate his wife’s serving too.

I first tried this on a skiing holiday in Kitzbuhel in Austria, many moons ago. I couldn’t remember the name, so it’s taken me until now to find a recipe. My first attempt was out of balance, with too much pancake and not enough apple for my taste, so I’ve adjusted the proportions. After a bit more research I found some recipes include raisins soaked in rum and so I’ve added them to the recipe as an optional extra.

75g butter
4 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
3 large eggs, separated into two large bowls
2 Tbs sugar (to taste)
1 cup plain flour
Pinch salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 Tbs raisins soaked for an hour in 3 Tbs Rum (optional)
Icing sugar to serve

Heat 25g butter in a medium to large non-stick frying pan (25-30cm) and cook the apples, stirring, until softening and starting to colour. Add the soaked raisins, if using, then tip out into a bowl and wipe out the pan. With electric beaters, whip egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the sugar and continue to whip until you have a thick, glossy meringue.

Using the electric beaters, gradually add the sifted flour, salt, milk and vanilla to the bowl containing the egg yolks. The beaters need to be clean for the egg whites, but  there’s no need to wash them before you do the egg yolk mixture. Using a spatula, gradually fold the meringue into the egg yolk mixture.

Heat 25g butter in the frying pan. Tip in the pancake mixture and cook for 3 minutes, or until the base is golden, then turn over and cook the other side. It’s not easy to turn a large pancake, so an easy solution is to cut it into four while it’s in the pan and turn each quarter separately. Don’t worry if it breaks a bit.

When golden on both sides, tip pancake onto a plate and using two forks tear it into bite-size pieces. Wipe out the pan and put it back on the heat with the remaining 25g butter. Add the pancake pieces. Cook, stirring, until golden, then add the apples and raisins and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring. Divide between 4 serving plates and dust with sifted icing sugar.

Serves 4

 

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Nigella Lawson made this ice cream on her TV series some months ago and I made a mental note to give it a try. She says it’s the ice cream she makes (and eats) the most.

It’s very quick and easy, using roughly equal quantities of Dulce de Leche or Nestlé’s Caramel Top ‘n Fill and cream. A splosh of bourbon, rum or brandy is optional – and best left out if you’re serving this to kids. There’s no churning required and when ready to serve the ice cream is not rock hard, so you don’t need to take it out of the freezer ahead of serving time, the way you do with most home made ice creams.

Dulce de Leche (known as Manjar in Chile) is basically condensed milk cooked until it turns into a thick brown caramel. It’s not difficult to make from condensed milk in a pressure cooker and this is what you had to do in Australia before Nestlé’s Caramel Top ‘n Fill came on the market.

Nigella says this ice cream goes well with Sticky Toffee Pudding. She also suggests adding brandy instead of whisky and serving it with Christmas Pudding. I have served it with Sago Plum Pudding.

1 can Nestlé’s Caramel Top n Fill (380g) or equivalent in Dulce de Leche*
300ml whipping cream
1-2 Tbs Bourbon, rum or brandy (optional)
½ tsp Maldon sea salt flakes, or to taste
To serve (optional):
½ cup pecan nuts or walnuts, roughly chopped
Maple syrup or golden syrup or honey

Place dulce de leche or Top ‘n fill in a bowl and mix with electric beaters until smooth. Add the cream and continue whipping until thick and smooth. Gradually mix in the alcohol, if using and salt to taste. Scrape into a container with a lid, then freeze for 8 hours or overnight.

Optional topping: Place pecans or walnuts in a small frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted.

Serve ice cream topped with the nuts and a drizzle of maple syrup, golden syrup or honey.

Serves 8

*or Bonne Maman Caramel Spread

Caramel Slice

I was staying at Hill House, a dairy farm in County Durham in my early teens when I learnt to make this recipe. They called it Triple Decker Slice and everyone loved it. There are heaps of versions online, often called Millionaire’s Shortbread, but this is my version. I’ve added the salt flakes, which weren’t in the original recipe, but appeal to anyone who likes salted caramel.

This slice is high in sugar and calories, so I don’t make it often, but when I do it always puts a smile on Matthew’s face.

If you can find dulce de leche or Nestle Top n Fill, make Filling (1). If not then make Filling (2).

Shortbread:
125g butter at room temp
½ cup soft brown sugar
1 cup plain flour
½ cup cornflour
Filling (1):
250g dulce de leche or Nestle Top ‘n Fill
125g butter
½ cup soft brown sugar
Filling (2):
1 can condensed milk
2 Tbs golden syrup
125g butter
½ cup soft brown sugar
Topping:
250g dark chocolate
2 Tbs Copha or butter
To finish:
Maldon sea salt flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 170°C. Mix butter and sugar in food processor. Add flour and cornflour and process till mixture sticks together into a ball. Press into a greased shallow rectangular baking tin measuring about 25x30cm, lined with greased baking paper. You don’t need to roll it out, just drop lumps evenly over the tin, then press with your fingers till you have a more or less even thickness. Bake 15-20 mins. It should be very lightly coloured, not brown.

Heat filling ingredients (1 or 2) and when bubbling cook gently for 2-3 mins, stirring. If using Filling (2) you will need to cook it a bit longer, say 5-7 minutes, to achieve the caramel colour. Pour over the shortbread and spread evenly. When caramel has cooled, melt chocolate with Copha or butter, pour over and spread evenly. If liked sprinkle with salt. Cut into squares when cold.

Makes about 20

Chili con Carne

Chili con Carne (pronounced Carnay) means Chili with Meat and was invented by working class Mexicans living in southern Texas. Often referred to simply as Chili this dish has lots of variations, a bit like Spag Bol which we’re all familiar with.

In this version, the sun-dried tomatoes give extra tomato flavour to the sauce. If preferred use tomato paste instead, or some of each. This recipe is enough to serve a big family, or a smaller family with some leftovers, which go down well for lunch on toast or in a wrap.

500g minced beef
2 medium onions
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp chilli powder or flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
200g sun-dried tomatoes, drained (or 4 Tbs tomato paste)
1 fresh red chilli, seeded & finely chopped (more if you like it hot!)
2 tins tomatoes
2 cups water and more as required
2 tins red kidney beans, drained (or white beans or a mix)
Stick cinnamon or 1 tsp of powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 beef stock cube
3 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
Sour cream (or thick Greek yoghurt)
2 finely sliced spring onions or 1 small red onion, chopped
Grated cheese
Corn chips or corn tortillas
Shredded iceberg lettuce
1 ripe avocado, roughly mashed and seasoned (optional)

Chop onions and garlic and fry in olive oil in a large deep frying pan until softened. Add the chilli powder and cumin with the meat and cook, stirring, until browned. Place the sun dried tomatoes, water and the chilli in a food processor and blend to form a paste. Add to the beef with the tomatoes, cinnamon, sugar, stock cubes and another cup of water.

Bring to the boil, cover then turn the heat down to simmer and cook for 1½ hours. Stir often and add more water as necessary. Add the red kidney beans 30 minutes before the end of cooking time. Check for seasoning. This meat sauce will keep for several days in the fridge and can be frozen. When reheating add a little water.

Serve with corn chips or tortillas, shredded lettuce, grated cheese and sour cream mixed with spring onions. Put all the elements in individual bowls and let everyone help themselves.

Serves 8

Low Carb Variation: use whole iceberg lettuce leaves to wrap instead of corn Tortillas.

Plum Cake

I’ve been making this cake for nearly 30 years from a recipe published by Stephanie Alexander, which she calls Mieze’s Plum Cake after the friend who gave it to her. I have slightly adapted the method but the end result is the same.

The best plums to use are blood plums which have dark purple skins and flesh, but unfortunately they’re only in season for a very brief period. The recipe works well with any plums you can get, or peaches, apricots or, as you can see in the photo, with nectarines.  You could also try making it with canned fruit if you’re housebound and that’s all you have.

I make this cake in a 22 cm (9 inch) square tin, so each serving has half a piece of fruit on top. This involves increasing all the ingredients in the original cake mix (but not the topping) to make a bigger cake which serves 16. For a smaller cake use the original recipe (see above link). I like to grind the nuts in a food processor and leave them slightly chunky, rather than buying ground nuts which are more like flour.

Serve with a cup of tea or as a dessert with a dollop of cream.

250g butter at room temp
250g sugar
200g plain flour
200g self-raising flour
pinch salt
3 eggs
½ cup milk
1 cup ground almonds or walnuts
8 blood plums, halved and stoned (or use apricots, peaches or nectarines)
Topping:
½ cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
60g butter
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 170°C. Process nuts coarsely in food processor then tip out. Process butter and sugar till fluffy, add eggs one at a time, sifted flours, salt, the nuts and then the milk, stopping to scrape down the mixture halfway through.

Spread into 9″ (22cm) square cake pan, greased and lined with paper. Arrange the plums, cut side up, over the cake and push them in a bit. The 16 halves should fit exactly. No need to wash the food processor before using it to mix all the topping ingredients. Pour topping evenly over the fruit. Bake in the centre of the oven for an hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle (cake not fruit) comes out clean. If outsides are getting too brown, turn oven down a bit, but don’t overcook or the cake will be dry.

Variation: Use peeled and halved juicy pears instead of plums and add a tablespoon of fresh ginger to the topping.

Serves 12-16

Stir Crazy Chocolate Cake

Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown I participated in an online recipe exchange from which you are supposed to receive lots of recipes. I only received two and this is one of them, from another Linda who lives in Chile. Appropriately named for when you’re going stir crazy while in isolation.

This quick and easy chocolate cake surprisingly doesn’t contain any eggs. Delicious on its own or with a dollop of sour cream, as shown in the photo.

3 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
½ cup cocoa powder
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 Tbs vinegar
2 cups cold water
Chocolate Icing:
250g cream cheese at room temp
¼ cup cocoa powder
1½ cups icing sugar
Chocolate buttons to decorate (optional)

Preheat oven to 175°C. You can either mix this cake in a bowl or in a food processor. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl or food processor and mix. Add remaining ingredients and mix till smooth, stopping to scrape down any mixture stuck to the sides. Spread into a cake pan. I used a 22 cm (9 inch) square silicone pan so I didn’t need to grease and line it with baking paper. You know your pan and whether or not cakes stick. Bake for 30-40 mins or until firm to touch in the middle.

Ice with your favourite icing or this one which uses cream cheese. Place cream cheese in a bowl and mix till smooth, gradually adding the sifted cocoa and then the sifted icing sugar.  You might find one cup of icing sugar is enough. If liked decorate with chocolate buttons. Cut into 16 squares.

Serves 16