Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rhubarb with ginger sponge

The rhubarb from last week is delicious under a ginger sponge. This recipe is adapted from Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons Cookery Book, the principal differences being the pre-cooking of the rhubarb, so that the dish is not too runny; the use of self-raising flour (Doves gluten-free) rather than plain flour and baking powder; and the halving of the quantities. Two of us, taking second helpings, ate all of it; it would comfortably serve 3, and possibly 4.

3 or 4 sticks rhubarb, cut into spoon-sized pieces
1tbsp golden syrup
1/2 cinnamon stick
85g self-raising flour
1tsp ground ginger
1/4tsp mixed spice
Grating of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
57g butter
27g brown sugar
1 egg, beaten

Cook the rhubarb as in last week’s recipe. Drain the liquid into a small saucepan, put the pan over a medium heat on the hob, and boil until the liquid becomes syrupy. (Careful: it will stick and burn if you leave it too long.) Pour it back over the rhubarb.

Stir the spices and salt into the flour. Cream the butter and sugar; because of the high ratio of butter to sugar, you may be able to do this by hand. Beat in the egg, and fold in the spiced flour. If the batter is too thick, loosen it with a little milk until it attains a dropping consistency.

Spread the batter over the rhubarb, and bake in a gas mark 5/190C oven for about 40 minutes, or until the sponge is risen and golden.

Serve with custard, cream, or ice cream.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Baked rhubarb with golden syrup

A happy discovery this lunchtime was that golden syrup – I had some left over from my gingerbread recipe – goes very well with rhubarb. Lovely, vibrant pink forced rhubarb is in the shops now.

Serves 2.

2 to 3 sticks rhubarb, cut into spoon-sized pieces
1tbsp golden syrup
1/2 cinnamon stick

Put the ingredients into an oven dish, and bake for 30 minutes at gas mark 6/200C, stirring from time to time.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January lemon cake, gluten free

I have been sceptical about the potential of gluten-free flour to produce a decent sponge cake. You need a bit of gluten, I reasoned, to give a cakey texture. Wouldn’t a gluten-free version, in spite of the egg and the butter, fall to bits? But a good friend (and excellent cook), whose mother is coeliac, insists that sponges made with a straight swap of gluten-free flour for wheat flour are excellent. So I gave this one a go, again using a recipe from Geraldine Holt’s Cakes (Prospect Books).

Doves Farm’s own recipe specifies plain flour and baking powder (you’d have to buy a gluten-free version). I don’t know what difference using Doves’ self-raising flour makes, but I note that it includes xanthan gum, the binding agent.

The butter/sugar/flour mixture may be thicker than it would be if it contained wheat flour. If the lemon juice does not produce a dropping consistency, add a little milk.

I did not top my icing with strips of lemon zest; and, as you can see, I used all the icing as sandwich filling, rather than saving half of it to put on top.

175g butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
1 lemon
3 eggs
175g Doves Farm gluten-free, self-raising flour

90g butter
1 lemon
230g icing sugar

Place two 18cm, loose-bottomed cake tins on a piece of greaseproof paper, draw round the bases, and cut along the pencil mark. Smear a little butter on the base of each tin, stick the round piece of paper on top, and smear a little oil on the surface of the paper and round the sides of the tin.

Cream the butter and sugar, with the zest of the lemon. I do this by hand, and may not be thorough enough. I see in the comments on the Doves recipe someone says that her cake did not rise, adding that she used butter straight from the fridge. Her butter/sugar mixture may not have been light enough.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding some flour as you go to stabilise the mixture. Fold in the flour, with the juice of half of the lemon. If the mixture is still too stiff, add a little milk.

Divide the mixture between the two lined tins, and bake in the centre of a gas mark 4/180C oven for about 30 minutes, or until an inserted skewer emerges clean.

Give the cakes about three minutes, pass a knife round the outside of them, and remove the bases. Cool the cakes, bottom sides up, on a wire rack (the bottoms would stick to the rack, but the crusty upper sides should not do so).

Remove strands of peel from the second lemon. Zest the rest. Squeeze and strain the juice, adding it to the juice from the half left over when you made the sponge mixture.

In a small pan, melt the butter with 3tbsp lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, and allow to bubble for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, and stir in the icing sugar until smooth. Stand the pan in cold water to hasten the cooling of the mixture.

Allow the mixture to thicken. Spread half of it on to the top of one of the cakes, and put the other cake on top. Pour the other half of the icing mixture on top of the sandwich, and decorate with the strands of peel.

The result has a grainier texture that a wheat-flour version, but it also has the lightness that you want in a sponge. I’m perfectly happy to use gluten-free flour in cakes from now on, though I'm sure I'll want to revert to wheat-flour versions from time to time.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Guinea fowl, pot-roasted, with Marsala sauce

I see that the last time I cooked guinea fowl, I cut it into portions first. This may be the preferable method, because it allows you to cook the legs until tender before adding the breasts, which can dry out. But I had forgotten the lesson when I came to produce this recent version, pot-roasted whole. Still, the flavour was good, and the sauce was delicious.

Serves 4.

1tbsp sunflower oil
2 slices streaky bacon, chopped
1 guinea fowl
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves
100ml water
500g button shallots or onions, peeled
Large knob of butter
125ml Marsala

Put the sunflower oil in a heavy casserole over a low to medium heat, throw in the bacon, and fry gently, until the fat runs.

Push the bacon to one side of the casserole, and brown the guinea fowl, turning it twice and salting it as you go.

Throw in the garlic, pour in enough water to cover the base of the dish, cover, and simmer gently for 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, gently fry the shallots or onions in the butter in a heavy pan, until brown all over. Add them to the casserole dish 30 minutes before the end of cooking – you want them to be tender, but not to the point of collapse.

Put the Marsala into a small saucepan, bring to the boil, and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Remove the guinea fowl to a board. Pour the reduced Marsala into the sauce. Cut the guinea fowl into rough pieces, return them to the casserole, and serve.

Or you could serve the sauce separately. After you have removed the guinea fowl from the casserole, sieve the remaining sauce into another pan. (If you’d like to remove some of the fat from the sauce, do so now.) You could now reduce the Marsala in the casserole, add the strained sauce to it, and return to a simmer. Pour this sauce into a warmed jug.

Cut up the guinea fowl, and return it to the casserole (or put it on a serving dish, if you prefer) with the shallots, garlic and bacon.

Unless you have removed fat from the sauce in the jug, you will need to stir it a little before each pouring.