Sunday, 30 October 2011

Hallowe'en Tea Brack

Hallowe’en Tea Brack

Honestly, I’m pretty cool.  I mean, I’ve stayed out past midnight on more than one occasion, my album collection contains more than just Lionel Ritchie’s Greatest Hits and I used to paint my nails black – just cos I could.  So there’s no question about it, I. AM. COOL.  To add to that, I’m not a Scrooge who hides herself away until Christmas is over because it’s too commercialised or who thinks that Valentine’s Day has turned into a day where Hallmark Cards squeeze you for every penny you have.  No, I embrace both days equally (although I secretly have an issue with the fact that we’re all supposed to be loved up for a specific 24 hours, but let’s not dwell on that one).  But there’s a risk that I’ll sound like a party pooper when I say that I’m not convinced about this new holiday we call Hallowe’en. 

When we were young we used to all dress up as ghosts and witches but we all had homemade outfits, so the ghost was covered in an old sheet with two holes cut for the eyes and one for the mouth.  The witch had a bin bag over her head with a hole cut out for the head and a painted black cone hat made from a used cereal box (they were simpler days then, no shop bought Hallowe’en outfits for us!).  I don’t remember going round the village doing Trick or Treat, I think that’s a new phenomenon.  Having said that, maybe Trick or Treating was around in our day but my mother thought that sending 6 kids out looking for sweets was a bit too much like begging!

Kids don’t make their Hallowe’en outfits any more, they’re all dressed up as Batman, Peppa Pig and clowns, although I’m not sure what any of these have to do with the ghouls and the goblins of Halloween.  There are no Hallowe’en games played at home either.  We used always play “Dunking Apples” where you use only your mouth to take the apples out of a big bowl of water.  “Cut The Flour” was another one where a “cake” of flour is built on a plate and a cherry placed on top.  Each person uses a knife to cut slices of the flour cake.  Whoever knocks the cherry must dip his head in the flour.  I think I may be very quickly undermining my own “cool” status so I better stop right now! 
We always had a brack for Hallowe’en.  A brack is sweeter than a bread and jam packed with dried fruit and tea and is mostly eaten as a snack with a cup of tea, but it’s not as rich as a cake.  Traditionally the baker would wrap coins and possibly a ring in parchment paper and hide them in the uncooked mixture in the tin.  What is hidden varies from house to house and from region to region but my Mam always hid 4 or 5 coins (this predicts wealth) and a ring (predicts marriage in the coming year).  We would always have to choose our slice of brack carefully, always hopeful of getting the slice with the coin – what child of 10 wants marriage anyway? 

It’s odd how as you get older you do your best to retain the traditions you had as a kid.  You know, the ones you threw your eyes up to heaven at when you were younger, like the real meaning of Christmas (who’d have thought, there actually IS more to Christmas than Santa leaving presents on Christmas morning!), Easter etc.  A tea brack is a safely guarded tradition and this recipe is lovely, very moist and it keeps for at least 5 days. 



Recipe is taken from the RTE Food website.

Ingredients
450g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
170g Caster Sugar
225g Mixed Dried Fruit
1 Egg
1tsp Mixed Spice
1ltr Hot Breakfast Tea
The Surprise Ingredients:
A gold Ring (predicts a marriage in the coming year)
A coin (predicts wealth)
You can put in or leave out these special ingredients as you desire or as your own tradition would have it. It is important these ingredients are all clean and wrapped tightly in parchment paper before adding to the mix once you have put it into the tin.

Method
Begin by pouring the hot tea over the dried fruit, stir well before covering and leavening to soak overnight.
When the fruit is ready, mix the eggs and sugar together in a separate bowl, giving them a slight whisk to add a little air to the brack.
Drain the excess tea from the fruit and add in the egg and sugar mix. Note: I added about a cup of the tea that the fruit was soaking in as the mixture is too dry if you drain away all of the liquid.
Add the baking powder and spice mix to the flour and sift this into the fruit mix, stirring gently all the while.
Knead the dough gentle now so as not to break up the fruit.
Line a 7" baking tin and place in the dough evenly throughout. I think it best to add the surprise ingredients at this point, this way you can ensure that they are spread throughout the whole brack.
Pre heat the oven to 170 degrees before placing the brack in the centre of the oven.
Bake for approximately 70 minutes, you can check it is cooked by putting a skewer into the centre, if it comes out clean it's ready.
Remove from the oven and tin before cooling on a wire rack. In my house my mother always cut the brack and buttered before serving, ensuring that no one else would know where the surprise ingredients where! Good Luck!
Top Tips:Soak the fruit in hot tea over night.
Ensure your "surprise" ingredients are clean and well wrapped in parchment paper.
Don't over knead the dough, it will cause the fruit to break up and dry out during baking.
Make the brack a few days in advance (up to one week, this time will give the brack much more depth of flavour.
Place the "surprise" ingredients into the dough when it is in the tin. Firstly this will evenly distribute them but always there is less chance of them coming loose from their wrapping.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Raspberry and Almond Cake
Maybe it’s just an Irish thing but I've recently become addicted to tea.  The very best mug (always mug, never cup) of tea of the day is lovely milky one you have when the day is over and the kids are safely in bed – preferably asleep!  You know what makes that mug of tea even better?  A piece of homemade cake.  Nothing too elaborate, the cake doesn't necessarily need any type of icing or ganache.  This is my perfect cake to accompany a “what a day, I’m totally shattered” mug of tea.  The cakey sponge, the tart raspberries and the almost crunchy crumbly almond flake topping were just made for a mug of tea. 

I made this cake last week when I had nothing to do but wait around for baby to make an appearance but held off on posting it until now as I knew I wouldn't have any time to bake anything this week.

Ingredients
250g softened butter
275g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
150g self raising flour, sifted
100g plain flour, sifted
60g ground almonds
300g frozen raspberries
Almond Topping
50g plain flour
2 tbsp sugar
45g butter, cubed
15g flaked almonds
Method
Preheat oven to 180C.  Grease and line a deep 23cm square tin
Make the almond topping by combining the flour and sugar in a bowl.  Rub in the butter with your fingers and mix through the almonds.  Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.  Add the vanilla and beat again.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
Gently fold in both flours and ground almonds.  Spread the mixture onto the prepared tin and top with the raspberries. 
Sprinkle the almond topping over the raspberries and bake for about an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.
Variation:  I have a thing for almonds and lemon, I think they make a perfect match.  I’ve made this cake a number of times by omitting the vanilla and replacing it with the zest and juice of a lemon.  No idea why, but it goes so well with the raspberries.




Best Feeling Ever!
I’ve been out of action for almost a week now and to be honest this blog, which has been all I’ve been thinking about for the past few months, has been the furthest thing from my mind. After 40 weeks and 6 days (those 6 days were the worst!) I gave birth to a beautiful little boy last Monday, Oct. 24th.  I can’t say the experience was pleasant but it was definitely memorable.  Let’s just say that you should only believe the pregnancy books that tell you giving birth is equivalent in pain to having your insides pulled out by a midwife wielding an axe, telling you everything will be ok.  But don’t let me put you off! 
The prize for putting up with such excruciating pain was a 7 lb 4 oz bundle of absolute perfection.  It made it every single contraction worthwhile.
So now I have a long road of sleepless nights, baby sick on my clothes, sterilising bottles and changing nappies, but I’m not daunted by any of it.  The worst is over and I’m ready to embrace the next few months off work (with 3 kids under 4, it will no doubt be something of a rollercoaster!).  I’m happy with my lot, three amazing kids and one fantastic husband (although he's totally useless in a "support my poor unfortunate wife in labour" situation, he's a keeper).
24 hours old, nothing to do but sleep



Thursday, 20 October 2011

Cranberry Oat Bread

Time is fast running out.  This is week 3 of my maternity leave from work and I don’t remember having as much free time since I was about 12 years old!  Baby was due yesterday so hospital bag is by the door and while I’m putting the inevitable pain that accompanies a baby into the world to the back of my head, I’m ready to rock and roll.

I’m loving the “holiday” that I’m on just now and could quite easily settle into a happy routine of bringing kids to crèche, spending the day trying out new recipes and writing about them.  There are a few light household tasks thrown in but nothing too stressful.  I’ve been trying to get my head around the fact that this temporary life is a time bomb waiting to explode and in its place will be a busy schedule of feeding and changing a tiny newborn baby.  Add sleep deprivation and two more kids under 4 to the mix and I think my life as I know it will be stopped in its tracks – for a while anyway.  I’m comforting myself with the fact that while my “holiday” will be over,

(i)         I’ll have a beautiful tiny, helpless baby to look after
(ii)        I’ll be able to bend down to pick things off the ground (always a benefit)
(iii)       Walking to the shops won’t feel like I’ve climbed Everest with a full bladder.
(iv)      Getting back into running again may (I said “may”) help with the sleep deprivation – will keep you posted on that one!   

Anyway, until baby decides to make an appearance I’ll keep baking. 
Today I decided to try Dan Lepards Cranberry Oat Bread.  I’m not a frequent bread maker and when I do make bread, I usually stick to soda bread which requires no kneading.  This recipe caught my eye as it only needs to be kneaded 3 times, for 10 seconds each time.  Yes, there’s the usual resting and rising time but if you’re going to be in the house for the morning, that shouldn’t be a problem.  The spice taste is very subtle, as is the little bit of Clementine zest.  If I was to change anything about the recipe, I’d reduce the amount of dried cranberries as the ones that don’t sink into the bread just burn in the oven.  It’s a lovely tasty bread and so, so simple to make.


Dan Lepards Cranberry Oat Bread

Ingredients
75g rolled oats, plus extra for the crust
175g dried cranberries
450g strong white flour
1½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon or mixed spice
Finely grated zest of 1 mandarin, clementine or orange
50g unsalted butter
1 tsp instant dry yeast
Oil, for kneading

Method
Put the oats and cranberries in a bowl and add 375ml boiling water. Leave for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture is warm. Spoon the flour, salt, spice and zest into another bowl, rub in the butter, toss the yeast through, then add the oats and berries, and mix well. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Oil your hands and a 30cm patch of worktop, knead the dough on it for 10 seconds, then leave for 10 minutes. Repeat this knead-and-rest sequence twice more at 10-minute intervals, then cover the dough and leave for 30 minutes. Pat the dough into a rectangle, roll up tightly and squeeze, seam-side down, into a large, deep, 19cm-long loaf tin, or place on a baking tray, lined with nonstick paper. Leave for an hour until risen by half. Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan-assisted)/425F/gas mark 7. Brush the top of the loaf with water, press on a handful of oats, cut a gash down the middle and bake for 50 minutes. It will scorch on top, but that's typical for fruit bread.

Monday, 17 October 2011

BAM Loaf

HORRAY!  I’ve just booked a flight to London with my sister.  We’re going in mid February (not only will I have given birth by then, but hopefully the (as yet unborn) baby will be sleeping through the night so that I’ll feel human again and will be looking forward to a weekend away (a whole THREE days away, so it’s virtually a holiday, right?).  I know it’s a full 4 months away, but already I’m counting down the days (spot the girl who never gets out). I’ll have to relearn a whole new set of social skills for the occasion!  We’re going to spend one full day visiting the well known cafes in London, the ones that are so popular that we’ve all bought the books (go on, admit it, you’re no different to the rest of us, you have at least one of the books!).  There’s The Hummingbird Cafe, Primrose Cafe, Candy Cakes, Peyton and Byrne and the Outsider Cafe.  Think it might be wise to pack my stretchy pants then. 

This is a recipe from The Outsider Tart “Baked in America” book (excellent book, but only for those with a SERIOUS sweet tooth).  BAM stands for bananas, apricot and macadamia nuts.  Macadamia nuts are expensive and may not widely available, so I made the loaf in the picture with walnuts which work just as well as macadamias.  You don’t actually taste the All-Bran but it’s nice to know it’s there – it justifies a slice for breakfast or as part of a packed lunch.

BAM Bread from “Baked in America” by The Outsider Tart

Ingredients

300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ tsp salt
175g unsalted butter, softened
225g granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
75g-115g All Bran cereal
450g mashed bananas
175g dried apricots, diced
175g macadamia nuts, chopped
75g-115g chocolate chips (optional)

1x900g (2 lb) loaf tin greased and lined with baking parchment

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  On a low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and mix for another minute.
Add the cereal, as it gets crunched up by the mixer, you will end up with uneven cereal strands.
Alternately add the flour mixture and mashed banana, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing only until just combined.
Fold in the apricots, nuts and chocolate chips (if using).
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the loaf is a deep brown and a skewer emerges clean from the centre.  Cool in the tin for about 20 mins before allowing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Anyone for the last of the season's apples?

Apple and Cinnamon Cake

Ah cake, beautiful mood enhancing cake, the answer to all our woes!  Not sure about you, but for me cake doesn’t have to have a 3 inch layer of buttercream in the middle and another 3 inch layer of chocolate ganache on top to make it worthy.  In my world, a good cake should be left simple and unadorned – this is one of those cakes.

I was at my parents house in Galway last weekend and in true “Irish Mammy” fashion, my Mam packed me off to Dublin on Sunday evening with a jar of homemade marmalade, a packet of sausages for our tea (honestly!) and a bag of cooking apples.  They are the last of her apples for the year and they’ve been sitting in my fridge all week as I try to decide what to bake with them.  Finally decided on this recipe which is one my Mam has been baking for years.  It has a layer of cinnamon coated apples in the middle and another layer on top of the cake that sink slightly into the cake as it bakes.  It’s so simple and only uses store cupboard ingredients, which is always a plus for me (I hate seeing a recipe that I want to make NOW but need to go to the supermarket to get some Peruvian vanilla extract or Italian walnut oil!).  I’ve just googled “layer apple and cinnamon cake” and it seems that this is also called a “Jewish Apple Cake”.  Whatever you want to call it, it works and it tastes delicious.

Ingredients
6 large cooking apples, such as Bramleys
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
350g plain flour, sifted
175g wholemeal flour, sifted
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
200ml vegetable oil
175g granulated sugar
200g soft brown sugar
50ml orange juice
2 ½ tsps vanilla extract
4 eggs
50g walnuts, chopped (optional)

Method
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20 inch springform tin.
Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one.
Pour half of batter into prepared tin. Spread half of the apple chunks over the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and spread the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean.  You may have to cover the cake with a piece of parchment paper halfway during cooking to prevent it burning (I did!).  Check after 1 hour to see if the cake is ready.
Leave in the tin to cool for 10 mins. and allow to cool completely on a wire tray before dusting with icing sugar.

Apples tossed in cinnamon and sugar

Ready for the oven


Straight from the oven.  Hot, hot, hot

Ready to serve

Ooooh, yes please!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Custard Cream Hearts

When we were growing up any treats we had were made by my Mam, so scones, maderia cake and apple tart were all we ever knew – icing on cakes was never a concept I was familiar with!  On a very rare Sunday afternoon Mam would unearth a packet of bourbon biscuits from the back of the cupboard (probably the equivalent of Tesco “Own Brand”) and we’d all salivate at the very idea of being given a shop bought biscuits – oh the luxury of it.  The 8 of us would be allowed one biscuit each and then to democratically decide which of us got to have a second biscuit (probably only 10 biscuits altogether in the packet), Mam would write all our names on little pieces of paper, wrap up the piece of paper and Dad would pick out the names of the winners – the prize being one of the last bourbon biscuits in the packet.  How sad were we! 

I saw a recipe for custard creams in “Feast” by Nigella Lawson and it brought me straight back to the kitchen table 25 years ago, fighting over the last “fancy” shop bought biscuit.  In honour of my biscuit starved youth, I bring you “Custard Cream Hearts”.  They taste exactly like (but a gazillion times better than – I know, a bit of an oxymoron there) custard creams that you buy, even though the filling is much creamier and the batch I made was much thicker than a biscuit you would buy.  If there is such a thing as a luxury custard cream range, this is it.  Most definitely one of the best tasting biscuits EVER!
Custard Cream Hearts from "Feast" by Nigella Lawson

Ingredients
For the biscuits
175g plain flour
2 tbsp custard powder
1 tsp baking powder
50g unsalted butter
50g vegetable shortening
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg
1tbsp milk
For the custard cream
1 tbsp custard powder
100g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter (soft)
1 tsp boiling water
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 / 180C
To make the biscuits, put the flour, custard powder and baking powder into a processor and pulse to mix.  Add the butter and shortening in teaspoonfuls and pulse to create a crumbly mixture.
Add the sugar and pulse again. 
Beat the egg and milk together.  Pour down the funnel of the processor with the engine running until it clumps together in a ball.  Go cautiously as you may not need all the egg and milk mixture or you may need more.   
Form the dough into a ball, press down into a flat disc, wrap in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for 20 mins.
Roll the dough onto a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 4mm and cut out your biscuits using a cutter.
If you feel in the mood, you can prick the outside of each heart all the way round (Nigella suggests using a corn on the cob holder, I used a fork – do you need to complete this step – I’d say No!).
Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 15 mins.  Allow to cool on a rack before sandwiching them together.
To make the custard cream, put the custard powder, icing sugar and butter into a processor and blitz together until you get a smooth cream (I used a free standing mixer for this – easier to clean!).  Add the boiling water and pulse again.
Sandwich each biscuit together with about 1 tsp of the custard cream.  Makes approx. 14 sandwiched hearts (28 individual biscuits altogether)

Can't Buy Me Love

Fork Biscuits and Coconut Ice


A perk of this gig is that you get to taste everything you bake, to make sure the fruits of your labour are worthy of putting in print.  Speaking of labour, tasting lots of baked goods does nothing for a lady who’s 8 ½ months pregnant and hasn’t known in months what part of the weight is “baby” and what part is “far too many cakes and buns”.


Part of the fun of baking is actually feeding people, especially when I’m feeding those who look forward to tasting some of my cakes and telling me how amazing they are!  Went to visit my nephews and nieces yesterday so I decided to make some “Fork Biscuits” and some “Coconut Ice” for them as a pathetic attempt to buy their love (my head is lowered in shame even thinking about it!).  They all went down a treat and I left with a smile on my face from ear to ear.  It’s the little things in life that give me pleasure.


My aunt has been making Fork Biscuits for years and years and typical of old recipes that have been passed on, they are as unfancy as you could possibly come across but they are also the most crumbly, slightly chewy, delicious biscuits you’ll taste.  She has always flavoured them with the zest of an orange, but cinnamon, ginger or chocolate chips can be delicious additions.   The ones in the picture are flavoured with orange and white / dark chocolate chips because that’s all I had in the house when I went to make them.  The recipe says to bake them for 15 minutes, but you’ll need to watch them like a hawk from 10 minutes as they very quickly go from underdone to overdone.  They never get a golden brown colour but they’re done when you see a little bit of colour at the edge of the biscuit.


I found a handwritten recipe for Coconut Ice in one of my Mam’s cookbooks.  Again, this recipe is at least 25 years old and I have no idea where it comes from.  Coconut Ice is basically a homemade Bounty bar.  What I love about it is that (a)if you close your eyes you could actually be eating a Bounty bar and (b) because the recipe is so old, it just sticks to the essentials, 3 ingredients and 4 or 5 lines explaining the method.  Simple, no fancy ingredients, no complicated technique and it works.  Delicious!  I haven’t changed any part of the recipe from my Mam so you can see what I mean.


These are both perfect for kiddies birthday parties but they’re too good to be reserved for kids only.  I firmly believe that either of these recipes wouldn’t be out of place if they were wheeled out with a cup of coffee after a dinner party for friends.   


Fork Biscuits.
Ingredients
110g (4oz) soft butter
55g (2 oz) caster sugar
150g (5 oz) self raising flour
Grated zest of 1 small lemon or 1 small orange
Method
Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4.  Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
Cream the butter, add the sugar, flour and grated zest and mix until it all comes together.
The dough can be used right away, frozen or kept in the fridge for up to a week until you need to use it.
Form into small balls, the size of a walnut.  Place on a baking tray and flatten slightly with a fork dipped in cold water.  Allow plenty of room for expansion.
Bake for 15 mins.  Allow to cool slightly for 5 mins on the baking trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Makes about 20 biscuits.

Coconut Ice
Ingredients
500g packet of icing sugar
397g tin of sweetened condensed milk
250g packet of desiccated coconut
100g bar of milk / dark chocolate, melted

Method
Mix the icing sugar and condensed milk until smooth.
Add the coconut (reserving 1 tablespoon as a topping) and mix well.
Form into small balls with your hands and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Leave in the fridge to set for about an hour.
Dip each chilled ball in the melted chocolate and top with a little of the reserved coconut.
Makes about 50 walnut sized balls.

An Australian Classic

Lamingtons

I was flicking through a baking book I picked up from the library and saw this recipe for Lamingtons, which took me straight back to 10 years ago (oh God, has it really been that long?) when I did my tour of duty of Australia.  I spent the most amazing carefree year there and although I wouldn’t go as far as to say I found myself in Australia (I mean, does anybody actually say that?!) but it definitely made me more independent, confident and ready to take the odd risk or two.  You gotta hand it to the Aussies for just living each day.

What does that have to do with Lamingtons, I hear you say?  You’re quite right, it has nothing to do with them.  Anyway, library book..........Lamingtons...........Australia.   Lamingtons are sponge cake squares covered in a chocolate icing and dipped in desiccated coconut.  They’re almost as much an Australian stereotype as vegemite or Bondi Beach.  I haven’t made them in years and forgot how good they taste.


Lamingtons - from “Good Housekeeping Easy to Bake Cakes and Bakes”
Ingredients (for the sponge)
125g (4oz) butter, softened
125g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
125g (4oz) self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients (for the topping)
200g (7oz) icing sugar
50g (2oz) cocoa powder
25g (1oz) unsalted butter
5 tbsp milk
200g (7oz) desiccated coconut

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C (Gas Mark 4).  Grease and line a 15cm cake tin.
Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and vanilla extract into a bowl and beat with an electric whisk until creamy. 
Turn the mixture onto the prepared tin and level the surface.  Bake for about 30 mins until just firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Wrap and store, preferably overnight so that the cake is easier to slice.
To make the topping, sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl.  Put the butter and milk into a small saucepan and heat until the butter has melted.  Pour over the icing sugar / cocoa and stir until smooth, adding 2-3 tbsp water so that the icing coats the back of a spoon.
Scatter the coconut onto a plate.  Cut the cake into 16 squares.  Pierce each square of cake through the top and dip into the icing until all sides are just coated, then roll in the coconut and transfer to a plate.
Leave to set for a couple of hours before serving.

The Summer May Be Well and Truly Over But............

Lemon and Summer Fruit Cake

My first week of maternity leave from work has just started and I could easily get used to this lifestyle.  The kids are in the crèche, hubby is gone to work and I’ve made the decision that for all of this week I am doing the bare minimum for them and the absolute maximum for myself.  Sounds a little selfish?  It’s just that if I don’t take this time for myself, before I know it the new baby will be here, the two older kids will be at home with me too and free time will be a distant memory.  So household jobs can wait until next week (provided the new baby stays put for another while!) as I bake and read and watch TV – not very much else a heavily pregnant woman in severe discomfort can do.  Make hay while the sun shines!
I thought it time to start using some of my blueberries and raspberries from summer that I had frozen.  I found this amazing recipe in an Australian food magazine called “Australian Table” from April 2006 that my sister sent home from Australia.  I have quite a few of these magazines but I guess when time is constantly against me, I end up baking from the same books the whole time.  It’s so nice once in a while to flick through a book that’s been gathering dust for far too long.  Well, here’s my “gathering dust” recipe.  This is so unbelievably easy, it’s the baking equivalent of a “one pot wonder” in that you give all the ingredients one mix and bung the cake into the oven.  No funny ingredients either and next time I try it I’m going to try it with peaches instead of the summer fruits, I think they would go so well with the lemon.

The cake is so moist and the critics in my house are still raving about it (they can be pretty harsh critics!).


Lemon and Summer Fruit Cake (Adapted from “Australian Table” Magazine, April 2006)
Ingredients
300g self raising flour, sifted
295g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
180 ml milk
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
130g butter, melted
200g blueberries or a combination of blueberries and raspberries.  The fruit can be frozen if that’s what you have.

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C.  Grease a 21cm loose-based tin.
Put everything (except the fruit) in a large mixing bowl.  Mix until well combined.
Spoon into the prepared tin.  Top with half of the fruit.  Bake for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle over the remaining fruit and bake for a further 30 mins.  Cool in the tin for 10 mins, then transfer to a wire rack.

This cake freezes really well, just wrap it well in parchment paper first.