Banana, Cinnamon and Nutmeg Loaf

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Having afternoon tea is very much a British thing to do. Granted we may not always sit down to tea and scones every afternoon, but given half the chance then we probably would. Copious amounts of tea is drunk throughout the day, but at tea time – around the hour of 4pm, a little sweet treat or savoury dainty might make an appearance if you are lucky.

 

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It wasn’t always the case. In fact it was Charles II wife, Catherine of Braganza from Portugal, who started the trend of tea drinking in the seventeenth century. From the English royal court it spread to London’s coffee houses and from there into the homes where civilised tea parties would take place.

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If you want a no fuss cake that is easy to whip up, moist and produces delicious baking smells when cooking then look no further. This banana, cinnamon and nutmeg loaf won’t win prizes for appearance in ‘The Great British Bake Off’ but what it lacks in appearance it makes up for in taste.

 

 

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So put on the kettle, pour yourself a cup of tea in your favourite fine bone china teacup and sit back and relax with a slice or two of this moist banana, cinnamon and nutmeg loaf.

 

Happy Days.

 

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Banana, Cinnamon and Nutmeg Loaf

2 eggs, beaten

90g butter

150g light Muscovado sugar

4 bananas, mashed

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

250g self-raising flour

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2. In a large bowl mix the eggs, butter (which has been at room temperature) and sugar together and when it is smooth add the mashed banana, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour. Stir in throughly. I use a hand whisk but arm power works equally well if you do not have one.

3. Grease your non-stick loaf tin. I don’t tend to line my tin as I find that the loaf easily comes out of the tin when cooked.

4. Place in the oven for 45 minutes. It is done when you place a sharp knife into the centre of the cake and it comes out clean.

5. Place on a rack to cool slightly.

It is lovely to serve warm but equally lasts well for a few days.


Hearty Venison Casserole with Star Anise, Nutmeg and Pink Peppercorns

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Our desire for comfort food begins to kick in around Autumn. For me this is a time to start cooking stews and casseroles – meals that are warming after a long walk in the fresh air. The game season is upon us so it is easy to pick up grouse, partridge, pheasant, snipe, rabbit and also venison. Game is extremely lean and surprising good value, so there tends not to be a week that goes by when my family do not eat some form of game over the Autumn/Winter months.  I’ll be putting up some more game recipes with a spiced twist over the coming weeks to give you some ideas on how to cook it.

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Unlike other game, venison doesn’t actually taste particularly ‘gamey’ and approximates beef. It is however far leaner and has more protein than any other red meat and is packed full of vitamin B’s.  So from a health perspective, it’s a great red meat to include in your diet. Now is the time to buy wild venison as they are are in good shape from their summer feeding, however, farmed venison is available year round.

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This recipe is a homegrown and has a delicious taste to it resonating from the star anise, nutmeg and pink peppercorns that work so well with the venison, mushrooms and red wine gravy. It’s different for sure but surprisingly works really well, so it has become a household staple recipe for us. Eaten warm,with crusty bread and a glass of red wine by a roaring fire, ok maybe I’m getting carried away but you get the picture, and you too will feel a warm happy glow as it nourishes your body. So try it and let me now what you think. If you have never tried venison before give it a go, you will be very pleasantly surprised by how good and lean it is. Just get those Bambi thoughts out of your head!

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Hearty Venison Casserole with Star Anise, Nutmeg and Pink Peppercorns

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

3 star anise

2 onions, finely chopped

1kg venison, diced

3 carrots, chopped into 1 inch pieces

3 turnips, cut into 1 inch pieces

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1tsp heaped pink peppercorns and a few extra to garnish

175ml red wine (1 small glass)

175ml vegetable stock

200g mushrooms, quartered

crusty loaf, to serve

1. Place the olive oil and butter in a casserole pot. When it is hot add the star anise and after 20 seconds add the onions and lower the heat slightly so they do not burn.

2. When the onions have softened add the venison, carrots, turnips* nutmeg and pink peppercorns and give a good stir. Leave to brown for a few 5 minutes, stirring and turning the meat over at intervals.

3. Add the red wine and vegetable stock and turn the heat up for 10 minutes, before reducing the heat to a simmer for a further 40 minutes or until the carrots have softened and the venison is cooked. In the last ten minutes add the mushrooms and stir into the casserole.

4. Serve warm in bowls with an extra scattering of pink peppercorns, crusty bread on the side and a glass of red wine.

-The reason for adding 1 tbsp of butter is to help keep the venison moist. As it is such a lean meat without a little help from fat it will dry out!

*I have added turnip since I have made this version and I find it works really well. 

-You can also add potatoes to the pot if you want to avoid crusty bread.

-Best to avoid eating the thistle!


Homemade Cajun Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Bulgar Wheat and Red Chard

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As those who have been sweetly following my blog for a while now will know, I adore healthy, appetising salads that combine and fuse together different meats, fish, vegetables, fruits and pulses. Whilst a simple green or rocket salad tastes sublime with a splash of lemon or a vinaigrette, I always like to prepare new flavour combinations that really lift a salad and take it to a new dimension. If you take a look under my recipe library above you will see a good variety of salads that I like preparing and eating. Purests may well say they are not salads as they are substantial meals unto themselves, but in my book they come under ‘salads that rock’, I hope you agree.

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At the moment, wonderful vibrant red chard is available so I bought a bunch hoping to do something creative with it. I adore the brightness of the stems – similar looking to rhubarb.  When it is young it is similar to spinach in that it can be digested raw or cooked. Rich in nutrients, it’s a winner in a salad from a health and looks perspective.

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When you make my Cajun rub, make sure you properly smother it over the chicken breasts. I find that making a few incisions into each breast helps release the flavours all through the chicken.

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I would be lying if I said that I have been eating quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and bulgar wheat for years, but the truth of the matter is that aside from health food stores, it wasn’t readily available. Today, however, it is accessable in most mainstream food stores, certainly in London. My packet looked like this. After rinsing it through with cold water it simply needs boiling for 12 minutes and viola it is ready to eat.

Have you got any great salad combinations that work well together? If so I would love to hear so leave a comment below so we can all share ideas.

Homemade Cajun Chicken Salad with Quinoa, Bulgar Wheat and Red Chard

Serves 4-6

to make the Cajun rub

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp rock salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 hot paprika

2 tsp of fresh thyme

1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg

2 tbsp olive oil

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500g chicken breasts (4 chicken breasts, skins removed)

120g red and white quinoa with bulgar wheat

1 litre fresh cold water

250g new potatoes

150g fresh red chard, chopped into fine short strips

2 handfuls of fresh seedless red grapes, halved

1/2 lemon juice

seasoning

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Start by making the Cajun rub. Combine all the ingredients, except the olive oil. Stir together and if you have a spice grinder give them a quick whizz in there so that they are perfectly blended together.

3. Lay your chicken breasts in an ovenproof dish and make a few incisions into the breasts so that you can push the rub into the incisions to give it that extra flavour. Place the Cajun rub all over the chicken breasts on both sides and then add the olive oil so that that the chicken is not dry.

4. Place in the oven for 25 minutes, turning the breasts once during cooking.

5. In a pan boil the 1 litre of water and when it is boiling add the red and white quinoa and bulgar wheat and leave to simmer for 12 minutes. Then drain and leave to one side.

6. Boil the new potatoes for up to 15 minutes in a separate saucepan with boiling water. Drain and leave to one side

7. Wash the red chard and pat dry. Finely slice the shard – as if you were making coleslaw. Wash the grapes and slice in half.

8. Finely slice the Cajun chicken, making sure not to get rid of the Cajun juices that will remain in the ovenproof dish.

9. In a mixing bowl add a little of the chicken, chard, quinoa and bulgar wheat, grapes and new potatoes. Give them a gentle mix with your hands before adding the same ingredients again in small portions so that they all mix well together. Add the lemon juice and the Cajun juices in the ovenproof dish. Season as necessary.  Transfer to a serving bowl/platter.

It can be eaten at room temperature or when the chicken, potatoes, quinoa and bulgar wheat is still warm.

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Croissant Bread and Butter Pudding

Have you ever been in the situation of having croissants in your bread bin slowly going stale over a couple of days and not wanting to simply discard them?

I was in this very dilemma recently so thought that the best option was to either:

(a) feed them to the birds

or

(b) make croissant bread and butter pudding.

I opted for (b)…………..sorry birds you’ll have to make do with normal bread crumbs!!

Lardy? Most definitely.

Decadent? Well just a little bit.

Healthy? We’ll just pass on that one shall we.

Bread and butter pudding is a much loved British dessert that we can all fondly (well for the most part!) remember eating as children. Today there are so many varieties of the dish to tempt and inspire. As well as stale bread or croissants you can also use brioche or panetonne – the possibilities are limitless. I stumbled across a rather interesting and amusing website called ‘The British Bread and Butter Pudding  Appreciation Society’ when looking into the exact origins of the pudding. Do check it out here to find some interesting facts about the dish.

My daughters asked me to omit sultanas, which would normally be my go-to fruit of choice to put in the pudding, and asked for chocolate drops. The closest thing I could find in my pantry to little chocolate drops were giant chocolate buttons, so as a treat I scattered a few of these in the pudding. You can basically add any fruit to the mix – summer berries would be delicious and colourful or even blackberries in the late summer, early autumn. If you do end up using sultanas do remember to soak them first in warm water or the ones you scatter on the top will become hard and rather burnt.


I had a couple of almond croissants getting stale so added these with my regular croissants.

Croissant Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 6-8

5 stale croissants, sliced into thin segments

3 eggs, whisked

400ml semi-skimmed milk

150ml double cream

2 tbsp caster sugar and an extra sprinkling to go on top

pinch of cinnamon powder

pinch of nutmeg

1 tbsp melted butter

1 tsp of vanilla extract

handful (or two!) of chocolate drops

1. Preheat an oven at 180 degrees (I use a fan oven). Slice the croissants evenly and line them in a greased ovenproof dish.

2. Whisk the eggs and then add the milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, melted butter, vanilla extract and some of the chocolate drops. Whisk/stir the ingredients into the eggs.

3. Pour the mixture over the croissants and leave for 10 minutes to let the mixture soak into the croissants.

4. Before putting in the oven scatter with a few extra chocolate drops , along with a sprinkling of extra caster sugar.

4. Place in the oven for 30 minutes and serve immediately.

Naughty but very very nice!


Carrot and Walnut Muffins in the most adorable cases

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When I was strolling around Gastown, the almost gentrified area of downtown Vancouver, I ambled into a rather delightful home interiors store called Orling & Wu. A treasure trove of throws, cushions, lamp shades, wallpapers and candles, clearly artfully chosen by its two owners. Within the store I came across the most stunning selection of muffin case designs that I have ever seen. They were utterly gorgeous and the type of cases that inspire you to throw a tea party in order to show them off, they certainly deserve the attention.

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On closer inspection I learned that the cases were sourced closer to home – in Sweden of all places. The company Kala:s far:m designs and creates these little gem muffin, cake and cupcake cases. In each delicately boxed case there is a recipe – what an ingenious idea – and in mine was carrot muffins, which I thought I would share with you. I’ve altered it slightly, so below you will find my version. I don’t have a sweet tooth at all, but these muffins taste really good and deliciously moist, I may even be converted.

Carrot and Walnut Muffins

Fills 20 cases

300g/12 oz granulated white sugar

200ml olive oil

3 eggs

3 carrots, grated

250g/10 oz self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

50g/2 oz walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade.

2. Beat the sugar and oil in a mixing bowl and then add the eggs.

3. Grate 3 carrots and add these to the mixture.

4. Mix the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, almost all the walnuts (save a few if you are going to do some butter cream on the top) and salt and stir into the egg and sugar mixture.

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5. Carefully spoon the mixture into the muffin cups so that just over half the muffin cup is full. If you fill them to the top they will spill over the sides when they are in the oven.

6. Place in the oven for 15-17 minutes at 150 degrees centigrade and then leave to cool prior to putting any butter cream on top.

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Butter cream

I tend to leave some of my muffins butter cream free as I know some people prefer them without a topping so the proportion below will cover about half of the muffins. Do double quantities if you want to cover all of them.

75g/3 oz unsalted butter

175g/7 oz icing sugar

a few drops of warm water

1. Take the butter out of the fridge when you begin to make the muffins themselves, so that it softens.

2. Beat the butter and icing sugar until fluffy. To save time I used an electric mixer but good old fashioned arm power will work equally well. If you need to soften the icing then add a few drops of warm water.

3. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

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4. Enjoy !