cakes · cooking · recipe

A Homemade Treat for The Family

“Time goes by so fast, people go in and out of your life. You must never miss the opportunity to tell these people how much they mean to you”. ~ Author unknown.

Is it just me, or are the weeks disappearing faster than ever these days? The more I spend my time enjoying my days and the busier I become, the faster the weeks are over.

It’s official ~ time really does fly when you’re having fun!

When the weekend arrives and my family have the opportunity to spend more time relaxing at home, without the pressure of work or school, I like to bake a treat for them to enjoy.

Last Sunday afternoon I baked the most delicious carrot cake ever! My family devoured it in no time at all, firstly whilst still warm from the oven, taking slices to work and school, as a snack when arriving home and it has even been enjoyed as a ‘dessert’ after dinner!

You’d be hard pushed to find a cake more popular than that!

So, here is the recipe for my most popular cake of all time, as voted by my family…

Carrot Cake

3 cups of flour

2 cups of caster sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

1 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

1 cup of undrained, canned crushed pineapple

2 cups of grated carrot

4 eggs

1 ½ cups of salad oil

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 cup of chopped walnuts

Sift the flour, sugar, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl, add the crushed pineapple, grated carrot eggs, oil and vanilla essence. Beat all ingredients together until well combined.

Stir in the chopped walnuts. Spoon the mixture into either one large square cake tin, or two loaf tins (it is quite a large cake, so can be divided into two).

Bake in a pre-heated 180 degrees C oven. One large cake will take around 2 hours to cook, and the two loaf tins will cook in about 1¼ hours. Check the cake with a cake tester to make sure it is cooked through.

Although the recipe calls for walnuts, I used pecan nuts, from my own garden. We still have a bucket full to use of this year’s bumper crop.

Treat your family, and enjoy! 🙂

cooking · recipe

Afternoon Tea ~Welsh Bara Brith

Whilst rummaging through my cupboard the other day, as I often do, the one full of old recipes, mostly hand written on yellowing, scrap pieces of paper, I came across a pretty card with a teddy bear on the front. Inside the card was yet another hand written recipe, sent to my youngest daughter when she was still a little girl.

My auntie, a northern England born and raised lady, had lived for a brief time in Wales. On hearing that my daughter liked cooking she sent her a recipe,  which we had never before heard of here in Australia; Welsh Bara Brith.

The note she added with the recipe was very sweet and I will share it with you here ~ “To the little cook of the house, would you like to make a Welsh Bara Brith loaf? I’m sure Mummy would be pleased and it is so easy to make. I’ll write you out the recipe. You would need a 2lb. loaf tin or two 1lb. loaf tins. Use the same cup or beaker all the time”.

After the recipe, she has written, “Slice, eat buttered. Now isn’t that easy? I’m sure you will like it. Let me know. Love, Auntie”.

Well, my daughter did make it and yes, it is easy to make.

My daughter and myself have been quite remiss for some time, neither of us baking Welsh Bara Brith for years, so today I have rectified that oversight!

Welsh Bara Brith

Pre-heat oven to 120-140 degrees C.

Place 2 cups of mixed dried fruit into a large mixing bowl with 1 cup of dark brown sugar and 1 cup of freshly made, strong black tea. Leave to stand overnight. (Note : I simmer the fruit, tea and sugar gently for about ten minutes, with the lid on the saucepan. It plumps up the fruit beautifully!).

The next morning, (or if you boil the fruit, after the mixture has cooled), add 1 whisked egg, 1 tablespoon of marmalade and 2 cups of self raising flour.

Mix together well with a wooden spoon.

Place the mixture into a baking paper lined loaf tin and cook for approximately 2 hours.

You can see by the photo how anxious my twelve year old son, who arrived home from school just as I took this out of the oven, and I were to have a slice of Welsh Bara Brith ~ the butter melted on it, as the loaf was still warm! 🙂

cooking · gardening · pecan nuts · recipe

Pecan Pie Anyone?

This year my pecan tree has had a bumper crop. Now, the weather has turned cold and the once green leaves are changing to brown and dropping to the ground, but not before we collected bucket loads of nuts!

In a previous post, I have already waxed lyrical in total admiration of my garden, (yes, I do that sometimes, nature just gets to me), and you can see here the beautiful nuts growing happily away in my garden. Clicking on the photos will enlarge them.

In the days when I first made pecan pie I didn’t have a pecan tree in my garden, I simply bought a packet of pecans off the supermarket shelf. Now I have a beautifully matured tree and I personally find it is a far more satisfying experience to grow, collect and shell my own!

Being the creature of habit that I am I have used the same pecan pie recipe forever. I know there are other recipes out there, but what can I say? When I make up this recipe I could eat the whole pie to myself! Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration there. 😉

As far as comfort food goes, this is up there with the best of them!

Pecan Pie

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

Pastry ~ ½ cup shelled pecans

160g butter

1/3 cup caster sugar

2 cups plain flour

1 egg, beaten

Grind the pecans to a fine meal, in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, being careful not to over process the nuts to a paste.

Cream together the butter and sugar and stir in the ground pecans and flour. Add the beaten egg and blend together to form a soft dough.

Wrap the dough in plastic film and refrigerate for 20 minutes, roll out and line a greased, fluted, 20-23cm flan tin.

Filling ~ 190g butter

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup warmed honey

6 eggs

¾ cup of shelled pecans

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the warmed honey and eggs, beating together thoroughly.

Pour the filling evenly into the pastry case and sprinkle the whole pecans over the top of the egg mixture.

Bake for 10 minutes at 200 degrees, then reduce heat to 190 degrees and continue baking for approximately 20 minutes extra, or until filling is set.

Decorate the tart with 90g of melted chocolate and serve with cream or ice cream.

The memory of the day I was given this recipe by an old friend has just come back to me and in this day and age is rather amusing!

As I am copying the recipe to share here, from a stained, yellowing sheet of paper, I am reminded of my friend letting me try out her latest office gadget, on loan from her boss, to type out the recipe.

It was a marvellous gizmo, which had a tiny screen above the typewriter keyboard, showing the words as they were typed into the machine. When satisfied there weren’t any mistakes, a simple hit of a button would type out your work….

It was an early day word processor! Can you believe it? (Okay, you can stop laughing now…it wasn’t that long ago…really!)

cooking · gardening · recipe · soup · winter

Lunch In The Garden…Pea and Ham Soup

The chilling winter’s air froze my skin, as I headed into my garden yesterday morning. Rugged up in layers of clothes, wearing thick socks and ankle height wellington boots, I knew the chill would soon leave me.

No matter how low the temperature is, the cold air is easy to tolerate when I am gardening. The cooler days are such a refreshing change…we have been enjoying eleven degrees Celsius morning and night recently, warming up most days to around 20 degrees.

As lunchtime approached, I remembered the big pot of pea and ham soup I had prepared the day before…warmed up for lunch, it would taste even better than it did last night!

This is yet another one of my Mum’s recipes, although I use the word “recipe” extremely loosely here, as there has never been any official recipe for this soup.

It is so easy to prepare and quantities can be judged to suit yourself also. Firstly, I soak about 1 cup of split green peas and half a cup each of pearl barley and dried soup mix in boiling hot water for an hour or two.

This batch of soup was made in my slow cooker although I usually cook it up in a large stock pan. Either way, it will bubble away all day if you wish, on a low simmer.

When the dried peas, barley and soup mix have softened a little, I drain off the water, place them in the pan and half fill the pan with water. Add 500g of meaty bacon bones or a large bacon hock and 300g of diced bacon. Turn on the heat and start cooking.

The vegetables that I usually add are one or two sliced onions and three of each of the following, all either diced or sliced ~ potatoes, carrots, celery sticks, parsnips and turnips. Top up the pan with extra water, after all the vegetables are added.

And that’s it! I wouldn’t even add herbs, salt and pepper, unless of course that suits your taste. Once the soup is well cooked, the water turns into beautiful bacon stock, as the chunks of bacon fall off the bones and the split peas go “mushy”, which thickens the stock.

Toast is a wonderful accompaniment to pea and ham soup.

I do not recall ever having enjoyed this soup more than I did yesterday, outdoors, with the cool bite of a winter’s breeze on my skin.

And as usual, my beautiful little “helper” hardly left my side! 🙂

birthdays · cakes · cooking · daughter · Mum · recipe

Coffee Sponge Cake

For my birthday last month, my youngest daughter made a beautiful coffee sponge cake.

I love it that she has always enjoyed cooking with me. Even as a toddler she would climb up on a little stool to see what I was making and would “help” by stirring the contents of the bowl occasionally.

As she has grown, (she is now 17 years old), she has made her own choices of new recipes to try out, adding interest to sweet treats the family enjoys.

When my Mum was here, she had a theory; it was a very rare person who could make both a light sponge and a good batch on scones. She was the sponge maker in our household of years gone by; I was the scone maker, so it worked out well for us.

Now, we have discovered that my daughter is an excellent sponge maker! She has whipped up a sponge many times, with such great ease that I envy her talent, as I did my own mother’s.

Well, today being my mother’s birthday, I decided it would be a very appropriate day to share my daughter’s recent sponge treat, made for my special day.

Happy birthday, Mum….

Coffee Sponge Cake

4 eggs, separated (at room temperature)

Pinch of salt

1 cup of caster sugar

1 tablespoon coffee essence

1 cup of plain flour

4 teaspoons of arrowroot

1 teaspoon of baking powder

4 tablespoons of milk

1 teaspoon of butter

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and grease and baking paper line two 20cm round cake tins.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form, then gradually add the caster sugar, beating continually.

Add the egg yolks and continue beating the mixture until it is light and creamy. Add the coffee essence and combine into the mixture.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and arrowroot. Repeat the sifting process three times. (My daughter assures me that the triple sifting is what gives the sponge its “lightness”).

In a small saucepan, heat together the milk and butter. Carefully fold the butter and milk into the sponge mix.

Pour half the mixture into each of the prepared sponge tins and bake for 20 minutes.

Decorate as desired.