Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Wholemeal vegan banana, blackberry and cardamom cakes

Last week I noticed I had 6 very ripe bananas in my fruit bowl, I'm not really a big fan of eating bananas whole and my boyfriend had obviously forgotten they were in there so that gave me a good excuse to whip up these little cakes. Thanks to the power of Google I managed to find a very easy recipe for vegan banana bread, essential as I was completely out of eggs and butter and wanted cake there and then instead of having to go shopping. I tweaked the original recipe a little by swapping plain flour for wholemeal, changed the cinnamon for cardamom and added some of the blackberries I picked last week that didn't get stewed. As I wanted cake quickly (ready for watching GBBO) I baked this recipe in a silicone muffin tray (instead of the 2lb loaf tin in the original recipe) which did away with the need to ferret through the cupboards looking for paper cake cases.

We munched our way through these pretty quickly as they were rather moreish but as they contain 2 types of fruit and wholemeal flour I think they count as fairly healthy. I baked a second batch using the basic banana cake recipe the next day to stash in the freezer. In the second batch I left out the cardamom and blackberries and added 50g of Nutella and 3 chopped apricots which had also been slightly neglected in the fruit bowl, totally my fault on that one.

Ingredients - makes 12 cakes - adapted from this recipe

3 large very ripe bananas
100g caster sugar
75g sunflower oil
225g plain wholemeal flour
1 heaped tbsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cardamom
200g blackberries
  • Preheat the oven to 200C and line a bun tin with paper cases.
  • Mash the bananas in a large bowl with the sugar and oil. Stir in the flour, baking powder and cardamom until everything is mixed together then add the blackberries and stir well. 
  • Divide the mixture between the cake cases and bake for 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  • These are delicious warm from the oven and also freeze well. 
For more easy vegan banana baking inspiration check out these recipes:
Vegan banana bread
Marbled peanut butter and jam banana bread

I'm linking this post up with Simple and in Season, created by Ren and this month hosted by Elizabeth, Credit Crunch Munch created by Helen and Camilla and also hosted by Elizabeth this month, No Waste Food Challenge created by Elizabeth and this month hosted by Laura, Recipe of the Week, Cook Blog Share and Tea Time Treats run by Karen and Jane where the theme this month is picnics.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Stewed blackberries with vanilla

I've spent far too much time glued to my laptop recently trying to make progress with the thesis and feeling stressed about it, so yesterday afternoon I decided to leave it all behind for an hour and take a walk to the park. Our local park is less than a 5 minute walk away and it's huge with plenty of blackberry bushes. I found the best ones last year at the far end of the park and made a beeline for them yesterday afternoon with an empty tupperware in my bag. After only 20 minutes of picking I managed to fill my tub with just over 700g of big juicy blackberries. If I'd had a bigger tub I could easily have picked twice that many but it gives me a good reason to get out of the flat again later in the week to go and pick some more. I've been working at home for the past couple of weeks instead of going into campus and I'm starting to feel like a bit of a hermit, it's far too easy to spend several days at home not going anywhere at the moment which I know is not good for me. But the prospect of free food waiting to be picked is enough to get me out and about.

I've always enjoyed blackberry picking, every summer when I was a child my brothers and I would go on holiday with our grandparents to their caravan in north Wales. We always thought this was great fun as the caravan park was close to woodlands that were brilliant for exploring in and we also weren't far from Snowdonia, and the beaches on the north west coast. My grandparents would always take us blackberry picking along the lanes near the caravan each summer and our treat was having stewed blackberries with our cereal for breakfast. One of my favourite breakfasts when I was probably about 8 years old was coco pops with stewed blackberries on top, breakfast heaven. My tastes have changed somewhat over the past 20 years and now instead of chocolatey cereal I like having my stewed blackberries for breakfast with overnight oats soaked in apple juice and a good dollop of full fat natural yoghurt.

The stewed blackberries will keep in the fridge for a few days or you can freeze them. They are absolutely delicious swirled through plain yoghurt and I think they would also work well mixed through a good quality vanilla ice cream to create a seasonal blackberry ripple. You could also use your stewed blackberries to make a blackberry crumble or pie or as filling for a layer cake. I haven't quite decided what I want to make with mine yet so they're in the freezer waiting for me to make a decision and to have time to play in the kitchen.

Ingredients - makes approx 500ml

500g wild blackberries, rinsed
100g caster sugar
2 vanilla pods, split

I've purposefully not added very much sugar to the fruit as I wanted to retain some of their natural tartness, though if you prefer your fruit sweeter just add a little more sugar to taste.

Put the blackberries into a small pan and mash them with a potato masher to break them up a bit and release some of the juice. Add the vanilla pods and sugar and stir well, place the pan over a medium-high heat and bring to the boil. Allow the berries to boil for about a minute then remove the pan from the heat, stir well and leave the vanilla pods to infuse. When the blackberries are cool, remove the vanilla pods and then either use the blackberries to create a tasty pudding or freeze in a suitable container for future use.

I'm not the only one enjoying blackberries with vanilla this summer, check out these recent recipes:

Blackberry Tofu Brulée
Mini Victoria sponges with blackberry cream

And for loads more blackberry inspiration have a look at my brand new Pinterest board.

What's your favourite way to enjoy blackberries?

I'm linking this post up with Simple and in Season, created by Ren and hosted this month by Elizabeth, Recipe of the Week, Cook Blog Share, Tasty Tuesdays and Credit Crunch Munch organised by Helen and Camilla and also hosted by Elizabeth this month.


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Elderflower Gin Drizzle Cake

I was discussing cakes with one of my fellow PhD students a few weeks ago (there's a few keen bakers in my department) and she was telling me about a gin and tonic drizzle cake she'd made for a friend's hen party that was apparently amazingly good. I'd seen a shared link to a gin and tonic drizzle cake pop up in my Facebook news feed from one of the blogs I follow, so asked if it was the same one. It turns out that it was, I then saw the gin and tonic drizzle cake pop up a couple more times in my Facebook news feed from other friends and I had to investigate. I read the recipe, bookmarked it and decided that I had to make it but with a small twist. I picked up a bottle of Gordon's elderflower gin a few weeks ago as I fancied a couple of gin and tonics. The elderflower gin caught my eye on the shelf and as it was the same price as regular gin, I thought why not? It turns out that elderflower gin makes a very refreshing G&T so I decided to give it a go in the cake.

Of course in order to justify the use of copious amounts of gin in a cake (the recipe uses about 10 shots, mostly in the syrup) I needed an occasion to do so. My parents moved back to the UK about 2 weeks ago after living in France for 8 years and I went down to visit them on Wednesday with a house warming gift of a new teapot and matching mugs chosen by me and partly paid for by my younger brothers, and this lovely elderflower gin drizzle cake. I ended up not being very organised on Wednesday and the cake came out of the oven about an hour before I had to leave the house to get to the station. This meant I had to wrap the cake, still in it's tin, in layers of greaseproof paper and hope that I wouldn't get dodgy looks on the train for carrying a bag wafting warm ginny cake smells. I didn't notice any sideways glances and fortunately my train was fairly quiet.

The recipe for this cake is on Pudding Lane blog, I didn't really do anything different other than leave out the tonic water as I didn't have any and the recipe only uses a splash plus I used flavoured gin and icing sugar for the drizzle instead of granulated. This means that instead of a crunchy layer of sugar on top, you get a slightly glazed look to the cake and on first glance it looks like a perfectly innocent Madeira cake. Though once you cut into it, you definitely know there's gin in there! Mum and I loved it though Dad wasn't quite so keen, gin isn't his favourite and he also said it was too sweet from the sugar syrup, it's not at all, but it didn't stop him from eating 2 big slices whilst I was there. The elderflower flavour from the gin is quite subtle and delicate and the booze isn't overpowering. I think a couple of drops of elderflower cordial added to the syrup would work quite well just to enhance the floral flavour, I may try this next time I bake it as I am definitely baking it again. There has been a lot of discussion about this cake in our offices at uni and we've toyed with the idea of having a gin drizzle cake bake off using different flavoured gins. Maybe this will be something to do once we've all finished with this PhD madness. I think sloe gin would work very well in this cake though I'm all out at the moment.

On Thursday before I headed back on the last train to Reading, sadly it was only a flying visit as I have a mountain of work to do, we went for fish and chips by the sea. As it was a lovely sunny evening, but very windy, I took a few photos of the beach. Fans of the Broadchurch series may recognise the view, I don't watch it though I have been told that some of it is filmed in West Bay. As it's now so much easier to visit my parents and they've chosen a very pretty place to live, I'm hoping to get more beautiful seaside photos.

I'm linking this post up with Bookmarked Recipes, Bake of the Week and Cook Blog Share.