Monday, September 16, 2013

Old-fashioned Ginger Cake

Sometimes the old recipes are the best. No tweaking, no ‘making it my own’ was needed for this lovely moist, aromatic  ginger cake.  It’s one I used to make many years ago and that my mother made quite often, but I’ve no idea where the recipe originally came from.

I haven’t baked it since long before the kids arrived, so it was totally new to them. I wasn’t sure if they’d like it, even though I loved it as a child. “Strong” was Youngest’s comment, as she first tasted it, but she ate it happily and the next day followed her older sister in drenching a slice with cream and eating it as a pudding. The only person who wasn’t that keen was my husband... but I’ve forgiven him.

It’s an easy recipe and quick to throw together, but slow to bake, which is lovely on a chilly wintry weekend, when the house fills with muted spicy scents as the cake slowly bakes to deep bronze perfection, and the oven makes a wonderful warm leaning post as you inhale the aromas. The cake remains moist and stickily chewy for days, so if you can resist eating it all up on the weekend it makes a perfect cake to eat slice by slice through the week. And there’s no need to ice it either, in fact icing it would cover up that lovely caramelly crust which is all part of the allure.

To be entirely truthful, I did make a small tweak – not having any treacle sugar (molasses sugar), I substituted a tablespoon of molasses for that amount of golden syrup and used regular brown sugar. I’m not sure how much extra treacly richness that added, so I’m going to have to bake it all over again with treacle sugar to check which I prefer, but in the mean time here is the recipe.

Ginger cake recipe
115g / 4oz butter
230g / 8oz golden syrup
½ cup milk
2 eggs
115g / 4oz treacle sugar (molasses sugar)
230g / 8oz self-raising flour (or plain flour + 2 tsp baking powder)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon mixed spice

Preheat the oven to 120°C / 250°F
Grease and line the base of a 20cm/7inch round cake tin.

Melt the butter and syrup together. Stir the milk into it.
Sift together the dry ingredients.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl.
Pour the melted mixture over the eggs.
Mix in the dry ingredients.
Pour into the tin.
Bake for about 1 ½ hours until the top is firm and springy and a skewer comes out clean.
Cool on rack.

Devour when craving richness and spice in your life.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Of Food Blogging and Chocolate Sauce

The rose in my herb garden, just because
Since I was chopped from the Freshly Blogged competition I haven’t posted a recipe here at all. Partly because I relapsed into cooking old favourites after all the adrenaline of coming up with something new and fabulous every single weekend for six weeks. But there is also that element of failing self-confidence that inevitably creeps up on you when you ‘’lose”. Self-doubt – am I really a food blogger? Am I good enough... all that niggling inner voice stuff that is the enemy of creativity. I was starting to second-guess myself – would it be revealing my lack of real food blogger-ness if I shared my latest exciting discovery of a really simple way of making chocolate sauce? Surely I should already have known how to do that if I was worth my Khoisan sea salt?

But then I go back to the basics of what a blog is. It’s a personal space to write about anything in the world you choose. There are no qualifications needed, no job description, no rules. People are free to read or not read.

I take issue with the tweet I read in the course of the Freshly Blogged competition along the lines of “how irritating my friends in the food industry find food bloggers who’ve had no formal training.” How crass, arrogant and just plain stupid. Of course there are food bloggers who are trained chefs. But most of us become food bloggers because we like food. We have other day jobs and write about our kitchen triumphs and disasters for fun.Not all food writers are chefs, not all chefs can write.

The last thing in the world I’d want to do would be to work as a chef – I’d freak out working amid all the stress of a restaurant kitchen. I’d not enjoy catering for 300 people at an event either. But give me a festival with 40 people to make soup, quiche and puddings for and I’m quite happy, or a Sunday roast for 12. I’m a home cook and that’s what I share on my blog.

A blog is about finding your own voice and staying true to it – the minute you try to conform to someone else’s rules or expectations you lose that spark of individuality that is what blogging is all about, on any subject. And to that anonymous tweeter – Nigella Lawson had no formal chef training -  she started out as a writer who loves food, and that is why I love her books, because they are enjoyable to read and written for home cooks, without a soupcon of cheffiness.

I hope that all my fellow honourable society of the Freshly Chopped are emerging from the frenzied whirl of competition and settling back into their own blog pace and rhythm. One of the up-sides of taking part in the competition was the fun of getting to know and chat with many other bloggers, the camaraderie and proof that the world of food blogging doesn’t have to be stabbing everyone else in the back with kitchen knives at dawn, but about friendly support and cheering each other on. And so good luck to the last nine bloggers who have just completed their last challenge of the competition.

And now for that chocolate sauce.

I made profiteroles a few months ago for the first time and was beset by set-backs and hiccups, one of which was my chocolate sauce cooling all lumpy and not sensuously glossy as it should be. I didn’t attempt profiteroles again until last week, because I knew that my dodgy kitchen scales were one reason for the initial choux pastry disaster. But then my birthday brought forth a zooty new set of digital scales, fetched all the way from Yuppiechef by my kind husband. This time with the to- the-last-gram accuracy of my new scales the choux pastry worked perfectly. I made the crème patissiere without any hassle whatsoever. And I went back to basics for the chocolate sauce and it was perfect.

So just in case you haven’t yet got your own favourite way of making chocolate sauce, I’m sharing my not-at-all-secret method. It’s too basic to be a recipe but here we go.

Chocolate sauce
100g of dark chocolate
60 ml water

Over a low heat, melt the chocolate in the water, stirring continuously.

That is it, instant chocolate sauce, as dark and rich as the chocolate you use to make it. (I used half Lindt 70% and half a cheaper non-specific, not quite so dark chocolate).

Allow to cool slightly before pouring over whatever delectable dessert you choose.

And if after a few hours it cools to a semi-solid goo, just add a dash more boiling water, heat a little and stir it back to a sauce consistency.

I had some sauce left over after our profiteroles and it made a wonderful soft chocolate spread to indulge in on crusty white bread.

If you are hankering after a chocolate sauce and don’t have any chocolate in the house, but do have some good cocoa (and let’s face it Nomu cocoa is an indispensable pantry item for any chocoholic), try making my chocolate avo parfait and instead of freezing it, use it as a sauce. It’s different but just as decadently chocolatey!