19 September 2014

Spiced apple cake with rum caramel and pecans

The smell of spiced apples and caramel means that Autumn is definitely here.  
This time of year is a difficult one- I never know what to wear- it's a cross between gloriously sunny evenings and frosty chilly mornings with Ugg boots at the ready. Although I love the sun, I also love freezing cold mornings filled with hot chocolate, bracing walks with the dogs and an excuse to curl up by a fire for the day! This cake is a real comfort food recipe- roasted apples mixed with ground cinnamon and mixed spice - baked into a light and squidgy cake batter and then topped with a rich dark caramel flavoured with rum- absolutely delicious and so moreish!
You can use this recipe to make either loaf cakes or small muffin sized cakes. I made a combination of the two and topped them with dried apple rings. I keep seeing the recipe for dried apple everywhere and decided I eventually needed to try it! They make a healthy little afternoon snack or something to through on your breakfast and are super easy to make. 

Ingredients: (to make one loaf cake and 6 muffin-sized cakes)

200g light brown sugar
200g butter
4 medium sized eggs
200g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp mixed spice
2tbsp milk
1tbsp honey
4-5 small apples (350g peeled and cored weight)
1tbsp brown sugar
3tbsp dark rum

200g caster sugar
200ml double cream
50g butter
1tbsp rum

2 apples
2 tsp ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C(fan). 
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the 200g each of butter and light brown sugar with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy. 

Gradually add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well between each addition. You may need to add a tablespoon or so of the flour to stop the mixture from curdling. 

Then measure out the rest of the flour, baking powder and spices. 

Add these dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix well. 

Add in the milk and honey and whisk again. 

Peel and core the apples. Cut into small chunks and put in a bowl with the tablespoon of brown sugar and the rum. Mix well and leave for 5-10 minutes. 

Then mix the apples and rum into the cake mixture with a metal spoon. 

Grease a rectangular loaf tin and a muffin tray with butter. Then spoon two thirds of the mixture into the loaf tin and the rest into the muffin tray. 

Bake the cakes in the preheated oven. The small cakes will take 18-20 minutes and the loaf, 35-40 minutes. (They should turn golden brown and when a skewer is inserted into the cake, it should come out clean.) Cool the cakes on a wire cooling rack.

Whilst the cakes are baking, prepare the apple crisps. Really thinly slice the apples and lay them out on a baking tray on baking paper dusted with a little ground cinnamon. 
When the cakes are baked, turn the oven down to 140 degrees C (fan) and bake the apples for 45min-1 hour, turning them over half way through. 

Whilst the apple slices are drying out, make the caramel. 
Put the caster sugar in a large wide pan. Put over a medium-high heat and let it sit until the sugar begins to melt (do not stir it!) Then when it begins to turn into a golden caramel, add in the butter and cream until you have a smooth caramel. Stir until mixed. (You may need to strain your caramel if you have some lumps of sugar left.) Take off the heat and stir in the rum. 

When the cakes are cool, spread over the caramel, top with the dried apple slices and some crushed pecans. 

1 September 2014

Courgette and feta tart

The lovely people over at Curry's asked if I would create a recipe to share in their student cookbook. This is a really quick, cheap and easy to make recipe that still tastes delicious and is perfect for a crowd. It's also a good main course for when you've got friends over, served with a big side salad and new potatoes and it's also super yummy cold (as a hungover midnight snack!)
Here's a link to their campaign. 


1 packet puff pastry (you can even buy a ready-rolled one)
2 medium sized courgettes
2 garlic cloves
200g packet of feta cheese
Handful of tomatoes, different sizes is fine, roughly chopped
Large handful mint, finely chopped
Fresh basil, finely chopped
A few olives, chopped in half
Zest of 1 lemon
Olive oil


Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Put a baking tray in the oven to warm up.

Roll out your pastry into a large rectangle. Lay it on a piece of baking paper on the preheated baking tray and spike the middle of the pastry rectangle a few times with a fork (this stops the middle from puffing up too much.)

Bake the pastry in the oven for 10-15 minutes until it has started to turn golden brown and the edges are puffed up nicely. 

Meanwhile, wash and cut your courgettes lengthways into thin slices. Put a frying pan on a high heat and add a good glug of olive oil. Peel and chop the garlic cloves finely and then add to the pan. Fry the garlic for a few minutes and then add in the slices of courgette and fry until they are tender and start to take on some colour (you may have to do this in batches.) Once you have cooked the courgette slices, lay them on a piece of kitchen towel on a plate in order to soak up any excess liquid. 

Once the pastry is baked, remove it from the oven and top with half the feta cheese, crumbled over the pastry. 
Then lay over your courgette slices, overlapping each one slightly. Top with the tomatoes, fresh mint and basil, olives and the remainder of the feta cheese. Grate over the zest of 1 lemon and some parmesan cheese. 

Drizzle over a little olive oil and then return to the oven to cook for another 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted slightly and the tomatoes are caramelised. 

Let it cool slightly before cutting into big wedges and serve with a big green salad, lentils or new potatoes. 

Curry's blog post: http://techtalk.currys.co.uk/cooking-home-appliances/the-currys-student-cookbook-perfect-recipes-for-beginning-a-new-term/