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Almond Cake

Almond Cake



I've had enough Christmas Cake.  I can't really eat Christmas Cake anyways, except for a tiny bite now and then . . .  Today I wanted cake.   I love almonds and so I decided to make my favourite Almond Cake.


This is a basic every day cake chock full of lovely almond flavours . . .  moist, dense and buttery . . .


The batter is an almost equal mix of self raising flour and ground almonds (almond meal) along with the flavors of both vanilla and almond extracts.


More almond flavour, and a lovely crunch, comes from the sprinkling of coarsely chopped almonds which you sprinkle on top of the batter prior to baking . . .


The cake is so moist and delicious that no icing or frosting is needed, but a drizzle of dark chocolate  really sets it off perfectly.  I drizzled it back and forth in one direction first and then did it again in the other direction. 


I thought it looked really, really nice.  Very tempting . . .


I use these cake tin liners, something like muffin or cupcake liners, except they are the size of a cake tin.  They work wonderfully, without the trouble of having to measure and cut.  I have them in three sizes.  8-inch 9 inch and then loaf tin sized.  They do leave lines on the sides of the cake, but for a cake like this, lines down the side don't really matter that much.


In fact I think they add to the attractiveness of it and actually provide lovely little crevices to grab any icing, or chocolate drizzle or whatever happens to float down the sides . . .


Mmmm . . .  next to a Victoria Sponge, this is my absolute favourite cake.  Truly.


*Almond Cake*
 one 8-inch round cake
cuts into 8 slices 


 
A great every day cake, moist and dense with lots of almond flavour. 

225g butter (1 cup) softened
225g caster sugar (1 cup plus 3 TBS)
3 large free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
140g self raising flour (1 cup)
175g ground almonds (2 cups)
50g whole blanched almonds, coarsely chopped (scant 1/3 cup)
25g dark chcocolate (1 ounce)



Preheat the oven to 150*C/300*F/ gas mark 2.   Butter an 8 inch round deep cake tin and line with baking paper. 


Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat together the eggs and extracts.  Gradually beat this into the butter/sugar mixture.  Sift the flour into the bowl.  Stir into the batter along with the ground almonds.  Mix until smooth.  Spoon into the prepared cake tin, smoothing the top.  Scatter the chopped almonds on top. 


Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes until golden, well risen and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before lifting out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely. 


Break up the chocolate and melt in a glass bowl over gently simmering water, until smooth and free of lumps.  Drizzle over top of the cooled cake and allow to set before cutting into slices to serve.



This cake would be perfectly happy on any tea table.  I think you are going to love this one.  I really do.  Its delicious.  Its simple.  Its just a great, great all-rounder!  Bon Appetit! 



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Marie Rayner
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Copycat Swiss Chalet BBQ Sauce

Copycat Swiss Chalet BBQ Sauce



One eatery place I always enjoyed dining at when I lived in Canada was a restaurant called Swiss Chalet.  The Menu is based on its signature Rotisserie Chicken with is served along with sides and its special BBQ sauce.  Back in the day it was pretty much the only place you could get a rotisserie chicken, but of course they are really common place now with most shops selling them ready cooked and so convenient for bringing home and enjoying in the comforts of your own little house.


Their BBQ Sauce is pretty amazing however and was always my favourite part.  They used to sell packages of the  mix in the grocery store that you could make your own at home with also.  It never quite tasted the same as the stuff in the restaurant though (what does?) but it was close. 


So delicious for dipping your chicken in and your french fries/chips.  A number of years back they ran a contest in the Toronto Star Newspaper to see if anyone could come up with a copycat recipe for the sauce and this sauce I am showing you today is the winner.  I believe it was attributed to home economist Kay Spicer.  In any case, I copied it down into my Big Blue Binder and have been making it ever since.


The original recipe called for poultry seasoning, which is not something we can get over here in the UK, so I have adapted the recipe to use what I believe if a fair substitute.  In any case it tastes about the same!


It is quite a lengthy list of ingredients, but once you get them all assembled, the recipe goes together very quickly and I have to say it is very close to the original, if not better.  Todd just loves this, and so do I.


*Swiss Chalet Copycat BBQ Sauce*
Makes about 750ml (3 1/4 cups) 

I make this whenever I get homesick for Swiss Chalet Chicken. This is a recipe which appeared in the Toronto Star many years ago.  It is delicious. It is recommended that you use 1/3 of the sauce to baste the chicken with while cooking and the remainder for dipping at the table. From my Big Blue Binder.It looks like a lot of ingredients, but if you assemble it ahead of time the sauce goes together very quickly.  

710ml water (3 cups)
60ml tomato juice (1/4 cup)
1 chicken stock pot (cube)
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 TBS granulated sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp parsley flakes
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp dried sage
1/8 tsp dried marjoram
pinch ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf, broken
3/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
6 drops Tabasco hot pepper sauce
2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 TBS cornflour (corn starch)
1 1/2 TBS water
1 TBS butter



Measure the water and tomato juice into a medium saucepan.  Add the stock pot.  Mix together the sugar, salt, basil, parsley, thyme, ginger, mustard powder, onion powder, sage, marjoram and nutmeg.  Whisk this into the saucepan along with the Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Add the Bay leaf.  Bring to the boil, whisking constantly to combine, then reduce to a simmer and simmer over medium low heat for about 5 minutes.  Whisk together the cornflour and water.  Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and then stir in the lemon juice.  Whisk in the cornflour mixture, whisking constantly, for several minutes until the mixture boils and thickens.  Whisk in the butter.  Cook for a further two minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning as required.  Store any leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator.


I really highly recommend that you make this sauce the next time you bring home a rotisserie chicken, or when you go to cook a chicken yourself. You will be so glad that you did.  I guarantee!  Bon Appetit! 



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Marie Rayner
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Dublin Coddle

Dublin Coddle



One place I haven't yet managed to visit yet since I moved over here to the UK, is the Republic of Ireland, which is what the Southern most part of Ireland is called.  A country in its own right it is not a part of the United Kingom, like Northern Ireland is and Dublin is it's capital.  It is on my bucket list however and God willing one day I will get there!


This dish today is a traditional Irish dish from the Republic, and in particular the capital. Dublin coddle, a warming meal of sausages and potatoes, dates back to the 1700s and is traditionally thought of as a city dish which would be eaten in the winter months.


It is said that an Irish wife could go to bed and leave it simmering on the stove for hours so that it might be ready when her husband arrived home from the pub and wanting his dinner.  Historically the dish is also a way of using up all the rashers of bacon and sausages on Thursday night before Friday, which in the Catholic faith the eating of meat is forbidden.



While researching this dish, I came across quite a few versions.  Some just included potatoes, onions, bacon and sausage.  Others included other vegetables like carrots, and some had the inclusion of barley.  One thing they all had in common was the cooking of it in a pot on top of the stove.


I chose to cook my bacon and sausage first so that they were nicely browned.  This was a visual thing, and for no other reason. I don't find the sight of unbrowned sausage or bacon very appealing to the appetite!  You don't need to cook them all the way through, just so they are golden.


The barley makes a lovely almost nutty addition.  You will want to check the stock levels as you are simmering it on top of the stove however.  You will not want the pan to boil dry and the contents to catch.  I added a few herbs and the end result was fabulously delicious!


*Dublin Coddle*
Serves 4

 
A Coddle is a traditional Irish dish usually associated with the city of Dublin. Hearty and delicious it is a stew-type of dish created with good pork sausages, salty bacon, pearl barley, onions, potatoes and herbs. 

1 large onion, peeled and chopped
100g pearl barley (about 9 TBS)
6 rashers of streaky bacon
8 large thick good quality butchers sausages
2 - 3 large waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3 inch thick slices
500ml chicken stock (scant 2 1/4 cups)
1 bay leaf
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp savoury
a generous knob of butter
Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Crusty bread to serve




Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  Place the sausages and bacon on a baking tray.  Cook them in the oven for 10 minutes or so until the bacon has started to crisp up and the sausages are coloured.  Remove and drain on paper toweling.


Take a medium flame proof casserole dish with a lid. (I use my enamel iron one).  Place the chopped onion in the bottom of the dish.  Top with the pearl barley.  Place the bay leaf on top. Cut up the bacon into squares and place over top of that and then the sausages over top of the bacon. Finish with a layer of potatoes.  Pour the chicken stock over top and then sprinkle with salt, pepper, savoury and thyme.  Cover and then bring to the boil over high heat.  Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, over low heat for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the lid and dot with butter.


Place, uncovered into the heated oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes are golden.   Serve ladled into deep bowls, scattered with fresh parsley and with crusty bread on the side.



This was perfect for a cold Winter's day and a most delicious way to use up some sausages in my refrigerator that needed using up.  Todd really enjoyed this.  I wager any man will.  It's hearty and satisfying and very tasty!  They say a glass of cold Guiness goes very well.  Ithe Shona! 





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Marie Rayner
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Pork Chops & Stuffing

Pork Chops & Stuffing



This supper dish I am showing you today is one of my favourite kinds of supper dishes.  A dish in which everything is cooked pretty much together, making for less mess and less of a clean up. But that doesn't mean less flavour as you will see!  This is delicious!


It looks pretty tasty even before it goes into the oven!  I was inspired by a recipe I found on Tablespoon for easy pork chops and stuffing.  It used boxed stuffing mix however, which is not something that is readily available over here in the UK.  We do have stuffing mix, but it is not the same thing as the one which the original recipe used.


The packaged stuffing we have over here uses rusk crumbs whereas the North American variety uses bread crumbs, and is seasoned quite differently.  Most cooks would have been tempted to keep looking for a recipe to use, which required ingredients that were readily available to them.  That's not me. I am not most cooks.


I liked the basic premise and then I set to work making it work for me, using what I had and adapting the recipe appropriately.  This meant I had to make a stuffing from scratch, but  . . .  its not really that hard to do.  I also didn't have frozen broccoli, but really how hard is it to blanche fresh broccoli.  Not hard really at all.


By all means if you don't want to go to the trouble, then go to the original recipe and follow that one, but if you like cooking food without preservatives and additives, from scratch, Stay Right Here!


You won't regret it.  This stuffing is moist and delicious, flavoured with celery, onion and dried cranberries along with a mix of herbs and seasonings.  The pork is simply seasoned with salt and pepper and browned before laying on top of the stuffing and broccoli, the broccoli being fresh broccoli, simply blanched prior to baking.


Altogether this was very delicious, the pork lovely and moist . . .  the stuffing filled with lovely flavours and the broccoli perfectly cooked.  I served it with sweet potato fries because I had some which needed using up and they went very well, but so would mash or rice, or boiled or baked potatoes of any kind.


*Pork Chops & Stuffing*
Serves 4

Easy and delicious, from scratch.  Tender juicy pork chops on a bed of savoury cranbery stuffing, along with your favourite crispy tender broccoli.

4 bone in Pork Loin chops, each about 1/2 inch thick
(slash fat edge prior to cooking to prevent curling)
oil
salt, pepper
2 cups broccoli florets, blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes
For the stuffing:
2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot peeled and grated coarsely
60g of butter (1/4 cup)
4 cups of dry bread cubes (about 5 thick slices of stale bread, cubed and dried
in a hot oven for about 10 minutes)
a handful of dried cranberries
1/4 tsp each dried thyme, parsley and sage
a dash of nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste
chicken broth as needed  




First make the stuffing.  Melt the butter in a skillet.  Add the celery, onion and carrot.  Cook until tender over medium heat.  Remove from heat.  Place the bread cubes into a bowl. Toss with the vegetables/butter mixture and dried cranberries.  Add the herbs and spices, as well as salt and black pepper to taste.  Add chicken broth just to moisten. 


Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a shallow casserole dish large enough to hold all the chops in a single layer.  Place the stuffing in the bottom of the dish and top with broccoli florets. 


Dust the chops with salt and black pepper.  Heat a bit of oil in the skillet you softened the vegetables in.  Add the chops and brown them on both sides, for two to three minutes per side.  Lay the chops on top of the broccoli in the baking dish.  Cover tightly with foil. 


Bake for 30 to 40  minutes or until the pork is no longer pink inside.  Serve hot.



As I have mentioned in  previous posts,  I was sent some pork to try out near the end of December by The Black Farmer, some of his new range of fresh pork raised without anti-biotics. Leading the way in being the first mainstream brand to introduce the products, The Black Farmer has worked closely with partner farms to establish farming and production methods in response to the rising resistance to antibiotics. The selection of fresh British pork cuts from RSPCA assured pork can be easily identified by the blue Antibiotic Free swing tag. Today I cooked the loin chops that I had been sent.  They were as lovely as the rest of it has been. 

The Black Farmer range comprises a Shoulder Joint; Fillet Medallions; Loin Steaks; Loin Chops; Belly Joint and Belly Slices. The Black Farmer Pork Range is available exclusively from the Online Grocery Ocado Shop.  


About The Black Farmer 
The Black Farmer is one of the UK’s leading gluten free brands marketing a range of higher welfare, award winning pork sausages, chicken, burgers, meatballs, pork cuts, bacon, eggs and cheese. Launched 12 years ago the brand has gone on to great success with its products available in all the major UK high street and online retailers. The brand’s founder, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones is in his own words ‘a poor boy, done good’. He was born in Frankfield, Clarendon, Jamaica and then, after his parents came to the UK in the 1950s, was raised in inner city Birmingham. For a number of years Wilfred worked as a chef before pursuing a career in television. In 2000 Wilfred fulfilled a lifelong ambition to buy a small farm in Devon. This inspired him to develop and launch The Black Farmer – a name coined by his Devon neighbours. His Premium Pork sausages are one of the country’s leading brands of super premium sausages.

Note - Although I was sent these products free of charge for the purpose of review, I was not required to write a positive review in exchange.  Any opinions are quite simply my own.  




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Marie Rayner
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Chicken Cheats

Chicken Cheats



There are certain things from Costco that I try to always keep in my freezer.  Things like the All Beef Hotdogs, cod fillets, and chicken.  I like the crispy crumbled chicken breasts.  They are really nice, just on their own served with veg or in a sandwich, etc.


We can get quite a few meals out of a package of them, truth be told, as there are only the two of us in the house, so they are quite economical for us.  I always like to season them a bit prior to baking.  Sometimes I will just use cracked black pepper and sometimes I will sprinkle them with cajun spice, or whatever flavours I am in the mood to be eating.  They are really quite an adaptable ingredient to have in your store-freezer!


Yes, it is a bit of a cheat, I know . . .  but I would be lying if I didn't admit that sometimes even the most seasoned chef's like to cheat a bit!  These frozen breaded fillets can also make a great basis for other things! Kind of like a pizza crust  . . .


They need never be boring.  You can partially cook them and then top them with a multitude of things and finish them off, and nobody will be complaining!! 



If you keep a store cupboard filled with lots of lovely bits, dressings, cheeses, sauces, etc. the world is your oyster!



This is a seriously simple way to dress things up and keep everybody happy. You could even make a bit of a party of it and let everyone top their own with their own choices.


Once topped and baked, they are ready to serve with any variety of sides . . .  potatoes, rice, vegetables, there is no end to what you can do.


Cranberry sauce and toasted soft goat's cheese  . . .  seriously scrummy . . .


Ranch style with ranch dressing, cheese, bacon and spring onions  . . .


Parmigiana with a good marinara sauce, parmesan cheese and mozzarella . . .


Hunters chicken with BBQ (I like the Paul Newman one) bacon, cheese and spring onions  . . .


Chicken Caesar with caesar dressing, parmesan and four cheese blend, with a bit of bacon and spring onion on top . . .


And those are only a few ideas . . .  marmalade with some apricot stilton . . . (can you imagine!) . . . salsa with some jack cheese and pickled jalapenos . . .  how about Mozarella and pizza toppings like olives, mini pepperoni, etc.  The world really is your oyster and these are truly a fabulous canvas for whatever floats your boat!


*Tasty Ways to Dress Up Breaded Chicken Breasts*

Note - Season all of your chicken with some garlic and onion powders, seasoning salt and black pepper prior to baking.  Bake for approximately 2/3 of the baking time allotted on the package and then proceed as follows for your choice of flavours. 

Chicken Caesar -  Spoon a heaped TBS of Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing on top of each.  Top with 2 TBS grated Parmesan Cheese and 1 TBS each chopped spring onion and cooked bacon.
Chicken Ranch -  Spoon a heaped TBS of Creamy Ranch Salad Dressing on top of each.  Top with 2 TBS Grated Cheddar Cheese and 1 TBS each chopped spring onion and cooked bacon.
Chicken Parmigiana - Spoon 2 TBS well flavoured marinara sauce over each piece of chicken. Top with a slize of Mozzarella cheese and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Hunters Chicken - Spoon 2 TBS of your favourite BBQ sauce over top of each.  Top with 2 TBS Grated Cheddar Cheese and 1 TBS each chopped spring onion and cooked bacon.
Cranberry Chicken -  Spoon 2 TBS of your favourite Cranberry Sauce over top of each.  Top each with 2 slices soft goats cheese.
Bake for the remainder of the cook time for the chicken until the chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.  Serve hot with your favourite accompaniments, pasta, baked potatoes, rice, etc.

Of course you could just pound, bread and fry your own chicken breasts and they would probably be even better, but when you are pressed for time and inspiration, these are fabulous! I am all out of them now so guess who will be making a trip this week to get some more?????  You got it Pontiac!  Mois for sure!  Bon Appetit! 



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Marie Rayner
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