Wednesday, 22 June 2016

banoffee flapjacks

... I wanted to avoid commenting on global events because I like to keep this blog nice and light but I feel that these past few months and in particular these last couple of weeks have been so unbearably retched that I couldn't help put my two-pennies worth in and I think we're all feeling that, what with the deeply tragic events in Orlando followed by the dreadful murder of MP Jo Cox and this awful referendum for the EU that us UK citizens are being subjected to which quite frankly has created an atmosphere of hostility, the world can feel like a pretty confusing place...  There is one small silver lining and that is I feel us bloggers are united in the way we defy, in fact utterly ignore, the usual boarders between not only countries but also race and creed and sexuality and all the other ridiculous things that get in the way when it comes to politics and belief.  I don't need a passport or a visa to read your blog and to feel like i'm part of your lives and a wider community... and of course you don't need any permissions to read mine.  I'm also more than happy for you to have an opinion but it seems that because we're all reasonable people we don't get too much abuse, or it's very rare when it does come.  Of course you can get swept away by the social media vitriol if you're not careful.  I tend not to read those dreadful Facebook strings of comments by people who are clearly one or two many braincells away from human to be part of humanity...

... and so i'm glad of my community without boarders... i'm glad we're united by food and i'm glad for banoffee flapjacks...

banoffee flapjacks
these little beauties were made for the local village church fundraising event.  Our local church of St John the Baptist is a very small but beautiful little church.  Built in the early 13th Century it is a very basic building but retains some lovely old features such as a priests doorway and decorated piscina.  It was rebuilt in 1862 and is officially a Grade II listed building... it has a little steeple with bells that ring for weddings ad high holy days.  It's a very calming place and even though i'm not a religious person I often come and sit on the bench outside and let the calm wash over me.  We're holding a little fundraising and awareness event this Saturday for which I am baking cakes... how i've never come across or thought of these amazing flapjacks before I have no idea because they are sublimely divine!  Made up of what is probably the best flavour combination ever, that of toffee and banana, they are sweet and sticky and chewy and rich and well... just bake them and see for yourself...

175g butter
125g dark brown sugar
125g soft light brown sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup
3 tablespoons honey
1 medium banana - halved lengthways and sliced
250g jumbo oats
50g ground almonds

pre-heat the oven to 180C and lightly oil a traybake tin - I used a classic Swiss Roll tin.

weigh the oats and almonds and put them into a large bowl and stir in the fresh cut banana ensuring they are evenly dispersed

melt the butter, sugar and syrup and honey in a pan and then once melted take it off the heat and pour over the oats and banana and stir well

pour into the baking tin and bake for 20-25 mins until golden

cool on a wire rack but cut them into squares whilst they're still a little warm.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

cashew red pesto and broad bean egg pie with poppyseed and lemon thyme crust

... a bit of advice to my younger readers - don't get old.  It's highly overrated. The thing is, i've got a bit of a hip issue.  In my continuing effort to stay healthy i've been running quite a bit.  I hugely enjoy running, even though I know it's really not particularly good for you, I love the freedom that you can literally leave your front door and start running... with cycling you need a bike and with swimming you have to go find a pool, get changed and then suffer other humans but with running you can just go and do it.  However my running days are officially over.  I have torn a ligament in my hip joint and the pain isn't fun.  As with all males over 40 I avoided the doctors until I could barely walk and at that point I hobbled to the surgery.  My GP recommended that I see a specialist who could scan me to see what the issue was... so last Wednesday i'm on my way to the clinic and out of nowhere my dodgy ankle (another story) twists underneath me I slip and fall flat on my face whilst crossing Marylebone High Street.  I lay there for a few seconds whilst the people sitting outside the cafe opposite me do nothing but giggle openly at my embarrassment.   If you've ever twisted your ankle you'll know that sharp pain that floods your body and makes you feel sick to your teeth.  I pushed myself up from the floor, ran around the corner and wept with pain and humiliation for a few minutes before gathering my self together and hobbled into the clinic.  My doctor was waiting for me and exclaimed that I was in the right place for an injury of this kind... and changed my hip MRI into an ankle and hip MRI... which sounds brilliant but meant I had to spend an hour inside the dreaded and very noisy scanner.  If you've experienced the MRI you'll know how awful this experience was and if you haven't then imagine being shouted at by a crow with a megaphone for an hour without being able to move a millimetre... I felt violated.

... the outcome is that i've ruptured the ligament in my ankle and torn a muscle in my hip - with added early onset of arthritis thrown in.  It's not been a fun week although the only up side to the whole adventure is that my doctor continually (and continues) to think that I am 37 and can't possibly be 45, to the point where it's now becoming annoying and a little alarming but, you know, i'll take anything at this point...

red pesto and broad bean egg pie with poppyseed and lemon thyme crust
to be honest this is just a quiche with a common name but i'm straying away from my traditional quiche recipe here and playing around with ingredients.  The red pesto is whipped up using some very basic items and a vegetarian hard cheese - although feel free to use a pecorino or a parmesan if you're not bothered by such grievances and the broad beans were all I had in the freezer but let me tell you, the combination is adorable and this little pie was a big hit.  I've been inspired by a colleague who is making frittata on a Sunday night and eating one of four quarters for lunch Monday to Thursday and then treating herself on a Friday... buying lunch can be expensive and this is a wonderful way to extend a simple bake to a tasty lunch.

for the cashew red pesto
100g cashew nuts
100g basil
100g sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic - peeled
100g vegetarian hard cheese or pecorino
50ml extra virgin olive oil
the set of one lemon

for the pastry
250g plain flour
100g butter
50g finely grated strong cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon lemon thyme - torn
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
water to mix

for the filling
1/2 large white onion - finely chopped
150g broad beans
100g frozen peas
2 tablespoons red pesto
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon or regular thyme
salt and pepper
4 eggs - beaten
150ml single cream
100ml soured cream (or cottage cheese / creme fraiche)

i'm using a 25cm, 3cm deep fluted tin with a loose bottom which i've greased well

pre-heat the oven to 150C fan

start with the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour in a large bowl until you have something resembling breadcrumbs, stir in the grated cheddar and the thyme and poppyseeds then add a tablespoon or two of cold water and bring together into a dough with your hands, you may need to add a little more water to create the dough but you will feel how 'short' the pastry is.  Flatten out the ball slightly, wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes

next make the pesto which is done by whizzing all the ingredients together in a blender for 5 mins until smooth - you may wish to adjust the olive oil up or down depending on how smooth you like it.

in a large pan gently melt a generous amount of butter with a little olive oil and throw in the onions and let them sweat gently for 8 minutes or so until they become translucent and soft.  Add the herbs, a little salt and more black pepper than you think then add the peas and broad beans and pop the lid on to let them steam for about 5 mins, then add the spinach,  pop the lid back on and  let it soften as it all cooks - turn the heat off and let the pan cool on the hob

now your pastry should be ready, roll it out and line your greased quiche pan. Scrunch up some baking parchment to make it pliable, then flatten it out and then lay this into the pastry case and pour some baking beans on top. Blind bake for 15 minutes on 150C

after 15 mins, remove the pastry and carefully lift out the beans - place the pastry back in the oven for another 5 mins to allow the base to turn golden

once your pastry is pale gold, take it out of the oven and set aside whilst you beat the eggs into the creams and add two tablespoons of red pesto and stir in well.

carefully tip the saluted vegetables into the pastry case - I do this by hand to get an even arrangement, finally pour the cream egg mix all over and  bake on 160C for about 15-20 minutes until golden and risen, set aside on a wire rack to cool.  The quiche should easily slide out of the tin.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

illusionary cake sandwiches

... as my dear readers know,  my other life as an event producer at The Persuaders is full of fun and madness and our current project with benefit Cosmetics sees us on board the Good Ship Benefit.  It's still there folks, moored at Embankment on the River Thames and open for gorgeous food and divine cocktails and of course lots of stunning make-up, until the end of August.  From next week, to celebrate the magical new brow collection from Benefit they are turning their regular afternoon tea into an illusionary afternoon tea.  It's an absolutely gorgeous idea with an unusual twist... all the cakes and brownies are savoury and all the sandwiches are in fact cakes.  The head chef Glenn has done a brilliantly inventive job of creating this lovely afternoon tea and we've all worked together to produce what we think is a very special treat, served in the beautiful brow lounge on board the main deck of the good ship.  So if you haven't visited yet, do pop by and pay them a visit and tell them I sent you...

you can book the afternoon tea on the Good Ship Benefit website...

illusionary cake sandwiches
everyone loves a good old-fashioned Afternoon Tea and the summer months seem to be the most popular time of year to eat them... whether you’re throwing a street party, on a deck-chair at the glorious coast or on a rug in a park, these little gems are delicious but also have an amusing and slightly magical edge, looking like savoury sandwiches but they are in fact sweet cakes. Something I’m sure you’ll agree will go down well with all your guests be them young or old.  Ive created 3 varieties to represent 3 types of sandwiches; a classic victoria sponge with jam and buttercream, a chocolate sponge with an apricot jam filling that looks like brown bread and smoked salmon and a carrot cake sponge with a cream-cheese and shredded carrot filling that looks just like granary bread with a coleslaw filling and will completely fool all everyone on the picnic rug.

for the classic sponge and chocolate sponge mix 
(to save time and effort, make this as one large mix then divide into two equal portions and add the cocoa powder to one portion.)
6 large free-range eggs
450g sugar
450g butter
450g self raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla paste

preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan 160C.

grease and line two 2lb loaf tins

cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy – a stand-mixer will make light work of this

add three eggs and half the flour and beat until smooth, then add the last three eggs and gthe rest of the flour and beat again until smooth and light, add the vanilla and beat one final time

now pour half the cake batter into one of the loaf tins and smooth off the top, then add the 2 tablespoons of cocoa to the remaining batter and beat well, then pour this into the second loaf tin

bake both cakes for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean, then set aside to cool

for the carrot cake mix
175g light muscovado sugar
175ml sunflower oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
140g grated carrot
100g raisins
1 teaspoon poppyseeds
grated zest of 1 large orange
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon

preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan 160C.

grease and line one2lb loaf tins

tip the sugar into a large mixing bowl, pour in the oil and add the eggs. Lightly mix with a wooden spoon. Stir in the grated carrots, raisins, poppyseeds and orange rind.

mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices, then sift into the bowl. Lightly mix all the ingredients – when everything is evenly amalgamated stop mixing. The mixture will be fairly soft and almost runny.

pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40- 45 minutes, until it feels firm and springy when you press it in the centre. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out, peel off the paper and cool on a wire rack.

for the fillings
300ml double cream
50g cream cheese
150g butter – room temperature
200g icing sugar
the zest of one lemon
half a carrot – peeled and finely grated
strawberry jam
apricot jam

in a large bowl, whip the double cream to a very thick consistency, then divide it in half. To one half stir in the cream cheese, lemon zest and grated carrot and this will give you the carrot cake filling, set aside the rest of the double cream for the chocolate cake filling.

in another large bowl make a buttercream icing by beating the butter till soft and creamy then add the icing sugar and beat again till soft and smooth, this will give you the classic sponge filling.

now you have all your cakes you can begin to assemble the ‘sandwiches’. You should be able to slice your cakes with a bread knife and treat them just like a loaf of bread but it may help to pop the cakes into the fridge for an hour before doing this. Then you simply slice all the cakes and fill them like you would as if making a sandwich. I’ve cut them into triangles because I think they look so pretty like this but you could go for halves or even dainty fingers.

eat and of course enjoy!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

chicken thigh and shrimp gumbo

... so it's currently summer here in the UK and when I say summer I mean a couple of hours of sunshine per day followed by 8 hours of overcast humidity, followed by sweltering heat, followed by rain and cold.  Annoyingly when it's been hot this week in London it's not a hot sunny heat but that overcast, muggy, humidity that is my least favourite warmth... in the big city, the only way to get out of it is to find the nearest shopping mall which is probably the most depressing sentence i've ever written.  London is so funny in the heat.  It can be quite oppressing one minute and the next all you want to do it find the nearest roof top and drink wine as the world whizzes past below.  Every pub is gloriously empty whilst all the punters crowd into a roughly 1 ft square patch of ground outside and follow the sun as it dodges the buildings across the tarmac... and it seems the streets are suddenly filled with people who were never there before as though these anti-vampiric creatures only ever come into town when the weather is exactly sunny and warm, you can tell who they are because if there's suddenly a sudden downpour they stand in the street screaming in horror not knowing what to do, as though their skin is burning.  I'm just counting the days till the summer is over and they all crawl back into the suburbs and leave me alone...

chicken thigh and shrimp gumbo
i'm no Southern Food expert but this spicy cajun stew is really rather special.  It packs a punch in the heat department but now we're approaching warmer months a little spicy heat is a great way to cool the body down.  I've gone for an 'all-in-one' method so it's just like a one-pot stew and makes the cooking process so much easier.  The whole dish spent quite some time in the oven, slowly bubbling away so that by the time I was ready to eat, the chicken fell neatly off the bone - so much so that I decided to remove the bones entirely and shred the lot before serving which of course made the whole dish so much less fiddly to eat.  I still have a pack of Cajun Spice Blend that lovely Kirsten from My Kitchen in the Rockies sent me a couple of years ago.  It's getting a little low in the bag now and I use it very sparingly but when needs must I pull it out use a couple of teaspoons but in all honesty it's a pretty simple spice mix, the ingredients of which I have listed below...

serves 2
2 chicken thighs
2 chicken legs
one medium white onion - roughly chopped
2 stalks of celery - chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fennel seeds - crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds - crushed
1 teaspoon cayenne
one green pepper - roughly chopped
one medium carrot - roughly chopped
a handful of green beans
440ml tin of chopped tomatoes
440ml chicken stock
fresh thyme
olive oil and seasoning

pre-heat the oven to 130C

gently heat  a casserole dish and add a little olive oil, then throw in the onions and celery and let them sweat for 5 mins before adding your cajun spice mix or the dried spices and herbs - stir them around and let them sweat with the onions for a while adding intensity and heat.

add the carrots, green beans and peppers and stir and let the vegetables soften for a further 5 mins, then pour in the tinned tomatoes, add a teaspoon of stock powder to the tomato tin, fill with water and add this to the pot too.

stir in the king prawns and lay the chicken on top - pop the lid on and place the whole thing in the oven to cook gently for 1 and a half hours, then remove the lid, turn the heat up to 180C and cook for a further 30 mins

remove the dish from the oven and let it cool slightly before gently removing the chicken pieces and slipping the bones out and shredding.  Stir the chicken pieces back into the gumbo before serving.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

pineapple, cucumber and celery smoothie - smeg blender review

... new toy alert.  As you'll know from previous posts I am in love with my stunning, retro-inspired, mint green smeg stand mixer.  It's a beauty and sits proudly, centre stage in the kitchen.  I have used it way more than i'd ever have thought and the results, from lighter than light sponge cakes to beautifully airy and easy on the kneading hand breads, have been epic... you'll also know from the many posts over the years, I am not a kitchen gadget fan - if the item is going to take up space on my work surface and not be hidden away, unused in a dusty cupboard then it not only needs to function well but it has to look damn fine doing it... So we have a big tick from the smeg stand mixer.  Then a couple of weekends ago my kettle just went and died.  I actually think it had been leaking for a while but I let it live on for as long as I could because it was a pretty blue kettle and I hate giving things up.  So it needed replacing and I happened to be passing our local 'department store' (the place is like something out of the 1950's with staff who could have been plucked from a Victoria Wood sketch and window displays that looks as though they were done by the local boy scouts - but that's a whole other story..) and inside they had a display for the entire smeg small appliances range which includes the stand mixer, a toaster, a blender and of course a kettle.

If i'm honest the range is a little 'dumpy' looking.  The designers have given the whole look that typical 1950's retro styling that has a particularly bottom-heavy look.  It works really well for the stand mixer and whilst the blender has a rocket-ship look the kettle is a little boxy.  However,I took a leap of faith and purchased it in a pale blue to match the other kitchen cupboards that aren't mint green and I have to say that this is one of my most favourite kettles i've ever owned.  It's cleverly weighty so that it's light to carry but feels sturdy in the hand.  It works smoothly and actually looks very stylish in the kitchen... but this isn't a review of the kettle...

... two weeks later and the good folk at smeg contact me to ask if i'd like to review the new blender.  Now, as hinted at above, there is limited counter space available at Belleau Kitchen and I don't want it cluttered with machinery just because they're pretty, so I was in two minds.  Plus it was only recently that I had received the beast that is the Jason Vale Retro Juicer so I didn't need anything that would just juice... but oh the smeg blender does so much more!  Firstly it ticks the 'looks pretty' box - dumpy styling aside it actually looks quite sleek on the counter and takes up quite a bit less space than the previous occupant... secondly it has 4 settings on a stylish dial.  One for smoothies and milkshakes, including bleeding frozen fruit, one for ice (it actually produces perfect crushed ice for cocktails which I can tell you, not every blender can do) a pulse setting for those stubborn foods such as nuts, breadcrumbs and coffee plus it has 4 speeds for different levels of blended-ness.  It blends soups although it advises you wait for the liquid to cool before using.  Oh and unlike the other juicer it blends everything together into wonderful smoothness rather than removing the pith and peel, which is where all the goodness of the fruit is.  There's a nifty little removable cup in the lid that allows you to add items whilst the blending is in progress. The blades are stainless steel and thankfully are fully and easily detachable for cleaning and the motor is a hefty 800watts so it deftly cuts through the toughest veg and keeps going.  My favourite function is that the smoothie and ice buttons have a pre-set time, so you press them once and walk-away and it will blend until blended without you having to stand there... plus, did I mention just how pretty it looks...

pineapple, cucumber and celery juice
it's quite amazing how, for such a subtle little vegetable, the cucumber really packs a punch when juiced... and celery!  Celery is my new love.  It's good for joint pain, arthritis and when blended the taste rocks.  We spent many a late afternoon lounging by the pool in Mallorca drinking this exact juice and it is divine.  The bar that we frequented and served these delicious smoothies named it the 'Diuretic' which isn't the most glamorous of names but I guess does what it says on the tin...  The pineapple and apple are enough fruit to take it out of that dodgy 'vegetable juice' zone and the lime perks the whole thing up.  Plus I learn that pineapple is great for depression and who doesn't need the endorphins perking up every now and again?

serves 2
half a medium pineapple - peeled and cut into chunks
half a regular cucumber (a pre-packed cucumber portion) or roughly 6 inches - cut into chunks
1 stick of celery - cut into chunks
1 green apple - cored and cut into chunks
the juice of one lime
a little ice and a little water

place the whole lot in the blender and whizz - not really much of a method to this but I feel the need to write something here at least...  you may want to add more water at the end and blend again.  As you can see from the photo's i've kept mine quite thick but more ice or water should loosen it up a little.

the smeg blender is part of their small appliances range and retails at £130

drink and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

asparagus and green bean spanish tortilla

... is there anything better than coming home from a holiday with the flavours of that time and place still lingering in your memories?  It seems to be a bit of a cliche nowadays because, if like many of us you live in a cosmopolitan city like London and are surrounded by the melting pot of international cuisine you probably eat quite a varied global diet... but let's be honest, there is nothing like being served the local food of a place, made by the people who have grown up with the flavours of the region in their blood.  Now of course i'm not saying that the small island of Mallorca, with it's over-commercialised and tacky tourist hotspots is the international destination for authentic Spanish cuisine but find yourself off the beaten path and in a small restaurant run by someone who clearly has a passion for food - you can usually tell by the incredible aroma coming from the kitchen and the fact that you have to beat the old Spanish ladies out the way to get a table - find this place, respect this place as you would your own kitchen and you will be treated like one of their own and fed like them too.  We're lucky because we know the area that we go to so we know and have made friends with some of the locals and in some weird way we feel part of the community, if only fleetingly... but even then we are still discovering new things every day...

asparagus and green bean spanish tortilla
the owner of the little hotel we stay in in Pollenca puts on an impressive spread of breads, meats and cheeses for breakfast but if you ask her nicely (and are planning a lazy morning) she will show off a  little and make you a classic spanish tortilla.  Let's face it, its basically eggs and potatoes but it's quite astounding how two such simple ingredients can create the most incredible dish... if you think this is nothing more than a potato omelette then you've clearly never lived... or at least never tasted he wonders of a spanish tortilla.  As is my want, i've drifted somewhat from tradition with the inclusion of asparagus and green beans... i've also replaced the usual white onion with chives but I'm serving this for lunch and thought a greener take on the norm would be just right... and just right is exactly what this is... my one big tip when making this dish is 'take it easy'... don't be in a rush, don't have the heat too high or too low, spend some time gently warming it all through and then finally have either asbestos hands or thick oven gloves for the flipping...

400g new potatoes - un-peeled and thickly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives - roughly 5 or 6 chive stalks (kept flowers for sprinkling)
5 asparagus stalks - roughly chopped
a handful of green beans - roughly chopped
150ml extra-virgin olive oil and a large nob of butter
a sprig of fresh thyme
6 eggs

for the above ingredients I am using a 25cm deep non-stick frying pan

heat the oil and large nob of butter in a large frying pan, then add the potatoes and chives and stew gently, partially covered, for roughly 10 minutes, then add the asparagus and green beans and leave for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are softened. 

carefully pour the potatoes and veg through a colander into a large bowl and pour the oil back into the pan

beat the eggs in another bowl and then pour onto the potatoes and veg with plenty of salt and pepper and stir it all together, then let it sit a while whilst you re-heat the pan.  

tip everything into the pan and cook on a gentle heat for about 5 minutes without doing anything, then use a spatula to shape the omelette into a cushion by softly pulling the edges in and slowly rotating the pan to flood the empty space

when it's almost set with a little liquid still visible, take the pan off the heat and leave for 4 mins to cool a little, then place a large dinner plate on top and carefully flip the pan so that the tortilla is now on the plate, then slide it back into the pan and cook a few more minutes. Invert twice more, cooking the omelette briefly each time and pressing the edges to keep the cushion shape... slide it back on to a plate and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

I am linking this recipe up with the brilliant co-joined Tea Time Treat and Cooking With Herbs challenge as it so nicely represents the use of herbs for a teatime treat. The challenge is hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 30 May 2016

banana, apricot and date loaf - sugar-free, fat-free and gluten-free

... whilst i'm enjoying the Spanish sun I thought i'd share this sweet little recipe for banana, apricot and date loaf.  As i've mentioned previously I'm attempting to eat a little less sugar and fat whilst also trying to expand my baking skills at the same time... and with mixed results! I've been asked to take part in a very exciting new baking project for the lovely people at Leisure but the activity doesn't start until later in the summer (don't worry - I will share all in due course...) so i'm also taking advantage of a little time to hone my sugar-free baking and devise a few recipes that i'm proud of creating too.  I quite enjoy the experimenting (so if you've any recipes you'd like to share - please do) and i've discovered that now i've reduced my sugar intake, when I do actually eat sugar I need much less... or I find that if I really want sugar in my tea or coffee, i'm reaching for the honey rather than the pot of little white granules.  Even whilst here on holiday in Mallorca i've found that my once-favourite local artisan ice-cream is very sweet... although to be utterly honest, it hasn't stopped me experimenting with different flavours just to make sure.  You know how it is. I sacrifice myself for thee...

banana, apricot and date loaf - sugar-free, fat-free, and gluten-free 
this is the third sugar-free cake in my sugar-free baking exploration and I think that this has to be my favourite.  I will admit that it doesn't look so pretty but it tastes absolutely delicious.  Now I say sugar-free but lets face it, with the amount of dates and apricots it's hardly a sugarless treat and whilst the non-refined sugars from fruits and syrups are better for you than the refined stuff they're still sugar and therefore full of calories so it really depends on your tolerances here... on the other hand there is no oil or fat, no dairy and no gluten so it is quite frankly a miracle that this cake is standing up at all... but standing up it is and it's an absolute belter.  I chopped it into thick slices and ate each slice over a week for a mid-morning snack - much like an energy bar and it kept really well.  I adapted the recipe from Suelle's Mainly Baking blog which originally has rum in the mix too and I can imagine that this would make it even more sublime - and probably the perfect cake for Christmas - but seeing that i'm also supposed to be trying 5 days each week without alcohol I thought I ought to leave this out too... so it's a pretty saintly cake, if you ignore the above...

250g stoned dates
1 large banana - roughly 140g and very ripe
100g pecans - 85g roughly chopped and rest left whole
200g apricots - roughly chopped
200g sultanas
100g polenta (or 50g polenta and 50g ground almonds)
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons baking powder (use gluten-free)
3 tbsp dark rum - optional
2 egg whites
a few mixed nuts for the topping
honey for glazing

pre-heat the oven to 180C/fan and line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper, using a little oil to make it stick.

put the dates into a small pan with 200ml boiling water and simmer for 5 mins. Drain the liquid into a jug, then put the dates into a large bowl along with the bananas and 100ml of the date liquid and whizz until smooth with a handheld blitzer.

mix the nuts, dried fruit, polenta, spice and baking powder in a bowl, then add the date purée and rum, and stir until combined. Then whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and fold into the cake mix.

pour into the tin (it will be quite full), then top with the remaining whole pecans and a sprinkling of mixed nuts. Bake for just under one hour until golden and crusty and a skewer comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into slices.

eat and of course, enjoy!




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