Super Berries

I’ve been extensively browsing the web pages of SportsDirect recently; not one of my usual pastimes but I’m getting an early birthday present this year in the form of gym trainers and leggings. I know this sounds terribly dull and practical for a 21st, but I’m actually genuinely excited to get some proper kit to bop around in at my weekly step class. As I was pre-occupied with healthy living et cetera  this evening whilst casting around for my next Foodie Fact, I decided to find out which berries are best for you and why. (I try to fully embrace the fitness drive as and when it takes me, because I do otherwise live in a world that revolves mostly around bread, cake, cookies and ice cream…)

Here is an ABC of a few top berries, picked out from this article, that you should apparently add to your everyday ‘To Eat’ list:

  1. Acai berries* ~ full of antioxidants, amino acids and fatty acids to protect cells against disease and boost immunity
  2. Blueberries ~ contain masses of fibre, vitamin K (builds bones) and manganese, an energy boosting mineral, not a language
  3. Cranberries ~ the group of flavanoids called proanthocyanidins in these not-just-for-Christmas treats help lower the risk of urinary tract infections

*(pronounced ah-sigh-ee; I did not know that before today!)

Acai-Berries    blueberrycranberries(5) 

Enjoy berrylicious bakes with these ideas from the Guardian: The 10 Best Berry Recipes, or check back a couple of days on An Inexact Science and find my very own Lemon and Blueberry Yoghurt Cake recipe to tickle your tastebuds! How’s that for culinary alliteration, eh? Sleep tight little bakers and bakesses x       

Well oil be damned…

Food fact of the day: oil is not only useful for cooking with. Corfu-olive-oil

Coat a spoon with a neutral-tasting oil, like rapeseed for example, to measure out sticky substances like golden syrup – the oil will make the syrup slide off the spoon easily for less mess and fuss-free measuring.

Also, before using a tupperware to store coloured foods (cooked beetroot, tomato-based sauces, etc.) wipe around the inside of it with oil to form a protective barrier that will help to prevent staining your tupperware. Now you too can become a domestic goddess like me!…  Til tomorrow folks x

Lemon and Blueberry Yoghurt Cake

This cake has been in the pipeline for a while now – when it was raining constantly I wanted to bake it to bring a bit of sun shiny-ness into the house, and now it feels like a welcome acknowledgement that the weather seems to have finally turned and is bestowing on us some sunshine at last.

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The initial idea came from the fun and very readable London Bakes; the blogger, Kathryn, posted a recipe for a lemon yoghurt cake and I love Greek yoghurt – in fact its really the only type of yoghurt I actually like and have done since I was little – so immediately wanted to try it out. Then, miraculously it seemed to me, I found a recipe for a very similar lemon yoghurt cake in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, current cookbook and blog inspiration tome of choice. What luck! Kathryn’s is gluten-free and includes a slightly different set of ingredients than Mary’s but both are similar in essence. I decided to add blueberries to mine for the extra bursts of tartness in flavour, and because I think they look so inviting baked in a sponge cake.

It does take a long time to cook, but on the upside that leaves you with a decent interlude for washing up/reading/watching the Winter Olympics. One of my tutors has been raving about the Winter Olympics lately and I have to say I’m glad she has been; I’ve been watching the figure skating and am in awe of everything about it. Me and my housemate also had a good chuckle at the curling – what an unintentionally hilarious sport! Apologies to anyone who is involved in curling who might be reading this – no offence meant – but the way the guys go crazy with their little scrubbing brushes just gets me every time. Also it reminds me of Pingu…remember that episode where the titular penguin and his confusingly twice-named (Robbie, or Seymour? I can’t decide) seal friend play curling with bedpans? Hilarious. All the more so now I’ve seen it with real people. Anyway…

The cake should last a week in the fridge according to Mary – its very moist, mine (with blueberries) even more so I imagine because of the added liquid in the fruit. I like to think that because it lives in the fridge it slots nicely into the ‘healthy snack’ or even ‘acceptable eaten for breakfast’ category. Mary’s recipe includes icing which would definitely take it off the second list, but I left that part out, maybe just so I could have it for breakfast with no qualms whatsoever 🙂 Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 50g butter
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 225g Greek yoghurt
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • about 180g blueberries

Step 1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4 and grease and/or line a deep cake tin. Mary says 20cm round, I used a loaf tin, purely because that’s how I imagined the shape…as long as its deep I don’t think it matters especially.

Step 2. Beat together the butter, sugar and egg yolks in a mixing bowl til pale and creamy. Add the yoghurt and grate in the lemon rind. Stir well til smooth.

Step 3. Gently fold in the flour, then whisk the egg whites to soft peaks in a separate bowl. Warm up your upper arm muscles first if you haven’t got an electric whisk and are as lacking in the bicep department as I am. Fold in the whisked egg whites, again very gently and carefully – you need to add both these ingredients using a metal spoon, not a wooden one, and cutting down and folding over the mixture rather than stirring it round.

Step 4. Fold in the blueberries, washed and whole, then pour the cake batter into your prepped tin. Bake for 1 hour to an hour and a quarter. The cake should be well-risen and slightly springy to the touch when it is cooked. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then loosen around the edges and turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling before storing in a tupperware in the fridge.

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**Notes**

Easy peasy lemon squeezy! Except don’t squeeze the lemons; you only want the rind, not the juice. It might never bake to a solid if you add more liquid to this mixture. The baking is the only bit that takes time though, otherwise this is pretty simple and yummy. The icing Mary’s recipe adds, by the way, is 1 and a 1/2 tbsp lemon juice to 100g icing sugar if you wanted to add that. For a special occasion, and perhaps if you were omitting the blueberries, you could decorate the iced cake with niblets of candied lemon peel. I don’t really have any notes for the recipe which is why I’m rambling; basically, its lovely. Back again soon with another foray into bread making! ttfn x

The Perfect Steak

steak

Know how to cook your steak exactly how you like it? Well, the answer is in your hands. No, literally. Gordon Ramsay shows you how to tell if your steak is rare, medium or well-done by comparing the feel of the cooking meat to your hand, in the handy cooking tips section of his TV program, ‘Ultimate Cookery Course’.

For rare meat, when you press the steak with your fingertip it should feel like the inside of your thumb on your palm – quite squishy and tender. For medium, you want the same give as you can feel on the outside of your thumb. For well-done, press your finger into your wrist (where you would take a pulse) and the steak should feel like this; firm with just a little bit of give. If it’s easier to see it rather than read it (and I have been reading for hours and hours today so please excuse me if this post is slightly garbled) here is the link to the show on Channel 4 (you might not be able to get to this if you’re outside the UK, I’m afraid, but I’m sure its on YouTube): Ultimate Cookery Course – Series 1, Episode 10 (skip to 21:20).

Perfect for a celebratory dinner, or a special evening in – impress your guests with restaurant-standard steaks whether they are die-hard carnivores or terribly squeamish. Cheers Gordon!

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Okay, so this was meant to be baked and posted yesterday, but my boyfriend and I got embroiled in making a late dinner and chatting to housemates, and before we knew it it was 1am and I was too sleepy to be trusted with anything meticulous like weighing out ingredients. I actually made this pudding earlier this evening with my old (that’s former, not ancient) housemates – a lovely reunion that included many rounds of my new game, Bananagrams (thank you to my lovely Valentine who knows me so well!), and a delicious dinner of Chinese porridge followed by the very English Sticky Toffee pudding 🙂

Nothing like a saucy pud on a cold night.

Nothing like a saucy pud on a cold night.

Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day to all and let’s pretend I have kept up with blog posts and today is still Friday. healthy-valentines-heart

More properly named St Valentine’s Day, the celebration began in honour of the early Christian saint Valentine of Rome or Valentine of Terni, depending on the denomination of Christianity followed, at around AD500. The tradition of giving gifts of flowers or confectionery and sending greeting cards evolved in 18th century England, which lead to the mass-production of Valentine’s Cards from the 19th century onwards, eventually earning the day the accolade of a ‘Hallmark holiday’ for some as a result of its increasing commercialisation. Today, Valentine’s is still celebrated in many countries around the world, and as part of the calendar of various Christian denominations, such as Anglicans and Lutherans. It is also called the Feast of Saint Valentine…an excellent excuse to bake some delicious treats, no?

However you celebrated, or indeed if you didn’t, making this Sticky Toffee Pudding would be a wonderful way to:

a. show someone  you care through putting thought and effort into a special bake (and ‘someone’ here includes yourself by the way  – caring for the self is no less important than caring for others in my book!) and

b. stave off the misery that freezing rain/sleet/snow/hail and ferocious, biting winds can afflict you with in these cold months.

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The recipe is from a newly-found blog, Poires au Chocolatthat I really enjoy reading, which is included in my ‘Delicious and Inspirational Food Blogs’ page as well as linked to above. I’ve taken a small detour away from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible recipes because, shock horror, there is no Sticky Toffee Pudding in the book, and once I’d seen Emma’s version on Poires au Chocolat I couldn’t wait to try it – I hope she doesn’t mind my reproducing the recipe here and will include the link to her original recipe at the end of the post. Emma posted Sticky Toffee Pudding as part of her blog’s Pudding Month – what a brilliant idea! Who doesn’t love a steamy, stodgy, saucy traditional pudding in the winter time? The sauce in this version is slightly salted which I am also a big fan of; avoiding a sweetness overload and adding an extra dimension which makes the whole eating experience a but more interesting and memorable. If you are steadfastly sweet-toothed, feel free to omit the salt though 🙂

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I had never made sticky toffee pudding at all before, so had my fingers crossed that it would go down well with my housemates, and my other, probably slightly more discerning, critic: my stomach. I am pleased to report that it was a success! Its fun and surprisingly easy to make  – I feel like I could wap it out again tomorrow if necessary, though my poor sugar-coated teeth might object to that…

Ingredients:

  • 100g dates
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 125ml boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or paste if you have it)
  • 1 egg
  • 90g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 150ml double cream
  • 50g butter
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • salt, to taste

Step 1. Chop the dates, some small chunks, some big, or depending on how textured you want the pudding to be. Measure out the caster sugar into a wide, heavy-bottomed pan and then weigh out but don’t add the other ingredients – you want them all ready so you can concentrate on your caramel mixture, not burning it while rushing around madly looking for the vanilla extract.

Step 2. Melt the sugar over a medium high heat on the hob. DO NOT STIR. It’s tempting, but resist. Shake the sugar gently into the middle of the pan to melt it if needed, but otherwise wait patiently til it turns a deep bronze colour. Remove from the heat as you add the butter. NOW stir as it bubbles, then carefully pour in the boiling water, vanilla and chopped dates.

Step 3. Mix the caramel together until everything is melted and smooth (except the dates, obviously they won’t melt). Stand it aside to cool for ten minutes or so.

Step 4. Now you have a nice little window in which you should: preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4, line a small baking dish with baking paper and whisk an egg in a separate bowl or jug. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the date caramel, beating thoroughly, then combine with the beaten egg.

Step 5. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and transfer to the oven for 25 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer poked into the centre or deepest part of the sponge comes out clean. Whilst it bakes, make the sauce. Put the butter, cream and brown sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently. Stir often until the sauce is a smooth and glossy light brown. Add salt bit by bit and keep tasting it – this is essential, don’t just chuck in a teaspoon and leave it at that. The salted caramel, besides being one of the best dessert sauces ever invented, holds the pudding back from otherwise being unpleasantly sickly sweet.

Step 6. When the cake is cooked, the sauce should be ready – pour a portion of the toffee sauce over the pudding, covering the top. Pop it back in the oven for 3 minutes while you grab the bowls, spoons and ice cream. Serve hot with the extra sauce, and preferably ice cream. So good!

Source: Thank you very much to Emma at Poires an Chocolat, this recipe is a keeper! Here is the original recipe on her blog: http://www.poiresauchocolat.net/2014/01/sticky-toffee-pudding.html x

**Notes**

None really…I didn’t change anything for once! Be aware that when I said small baking dish, it really is quite a weeny pudding compared to what you might think. Mine served six comfortably though – its too rich to go back for seconds!

Definitely one of my new favourite puddings :)

Definitely one of my new favourite puddings 🙂

How to de-grease stews and casseroles

According to Rob McCue, of the TV show Hell’s Kitchen, if your stew, casserole, soup or similar is too greasy or fatty, simply drop in an ice cube. The ice will coagulate the fat, which you can then easily scoop out, and voilà, you have de-greased your meal.  A very useful tip to remember, I feel, especially in this sort of weather when all you want is a hot, steaming bowl of nourishment to welcome you in from the howling gales and driving sleet. Since when did you have to dress like you were venturing across the Arctic Circle to get to lectures on a morning?!

5 a day

Firstly, apologies for my absence over the past few days – something unexpected came up last weekend which meant I was away from home, and today has just been absolutely manic and non-stop.  Tuesday has mercilessly catapulted me headlong back into term time mode! I do intend to have a new recipe post up by Friday, though, and to make up for the days missed, here are five fruitilicious facts to peruse and amuse:

1. If you rub the inside of a banana skin on a mosquito bite, it stops the itching

2. There are approximately 10, 000 varieties of apples grown around the world!

3. Strawberries were used as sacred symbols by Christian stonemasons

4. Bananas are high in B-complex vitamins, which help calm the nervous system

5. One pomegranate can hold more than 1000 seeds

basket with colorful fruits

An apple a day keeps the doctor away! Stay healthy x