Nigella

Vegan chocolate cake

vegan chocolate cake

A very honest (and bad) photo!

I hosted my book group this week. We talked about Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Heart Goes Last’ which divided opinion and prompted a good debate. I thought it was rubbish.

I have only recently entered the Book Group World and always imagined it to be just an excuse to drink white wine on a school night. Whilst this may be true of some, ours is more a decaff tea and cake affair. This makes a nice change as most of my other social groups only seem to function when accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol.

One of our members is vegan which set me a welcome challenge to find an edible cake recipe that used neither eggs or dairy. A quick google search bought up thousands of options but I had to search hard to find one that used regular (albeit dairy free) store cupboard ingredients (no agave syrup, medjool dates, coconut butter or flax eggs here please!).

My supplies of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda have dramatically decreased since the children started using them in their ‘Kitchen Science’ experiments. But it’s the same reaction between the vinegar and bicarb that propels plastic rockets and creates mini volcanoes that makes this cake rise in the absence of eggs.

The cake is disappointingly bland until you add the silky, sticky glaze which transforms it into something rather delicious. I would serve it quite happily to non-vegans who I don’t think would complain. It’s not a looker though (as the photo above demonstrates). You could work the presentation if you like with rose petals. Nigella does this in her version.

Vegan Chocolate Cake Recipe

For the cake

  • 180g of plain flour
  • 200g of caster sugar
  • 40g of cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ a teaspoon of salt
  • 215ml of warm water or coffee (I used decaff coffee)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 70ml of vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon of white or apple cider vinegar

For the glaze

  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 60g of vegan/dairy free margarine
  • 2 tablespoons of soya milk
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 180oC.

Line a 20cm x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) square baking tin with parchment and grease with vegetable oil or vegan margarine.

Into a mixing bowl add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and stir with a fork until there are no lumps.

Measure the warm water/coffee, vanilla extract, vegetable oil and vinegar into a jug and pour into the dry ingredients.

Mix the ingredients together with a metal spoon until incorporated.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes.

Cool on a cooling rack while you make the glaze.

For the glaze, in a small saucepan melt the sugar, margarine, soya milk and cocoa powder and bring to a boil stirring all the time. Simmer for 2 minutes then remove from the heat and stir for an additional 5 minutes until the mixture is cooled and thickened. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour the glaze onto cake and put in the fridge to set.

vegan chocolate cake 1

Unglazed

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Nigella’s dairy free olive oil chocolate cake

oliveoilchocoatecake

These are the things I haven’t given up for Lent.

Cake, coffee and a good book.

How can I not be happy with those marvellous things still in my life?

For me Nigella is the queen of cakes – even better than Mary or Delia – and this dairy free chocolate one is delicious and very simple to make.

There are a few members of my family who don’t eat dairy so this is a useful recipe to have in my ever expanding collection of chocolate cakes (this is the fifth one on this blog and that doesn’t even include chocolate brownies, muffins and fondants!).

oliveoilchocoatecake1

Nigella’s dairy free olive oil chocolate cake

Makes a big cake which cuts into 12 large slices

  • 150ml of regular olive oil, plus a little to grease the tin
  • 50g of cocoa powder
  • 125ml of boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 125g of plain flour (or, if you want a gluten free cake, use 150g of ground almonds instead, although this will result in a heavier cake best served warm with cream)
  • ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 200g of caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Line a 23cm diametre spring form tin with baking parchment and grease lightly with olive oil.

Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl or jug and stir in the boiling water until well combined and without lumps. Add the vanilla extract and leave to cool a little.

In another bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and stir to combine.

In a large bowl add the eggs, olive oil and sugar and whisk with an electric hand whisk on a high speed for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Nigella uses a free standing mixer with a paddle attachment but I don’t have one of these.

Add the cocoa mixture and mix briefly on a low speed until just incorporated.

Then add the flour and mix on low again until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until the cake is just set. Mine was perfect after 40.

Let the cake cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then turn out and leave to cool. Or, eat warm with cream or ice cream.

This cake keeps well but if my family is anything to go by it won’t last more than a day or so.

Unglamorous gammon

gammon revised

Gammon is so uncool – it’s one of those foods that conjures up images of old people’s homes and really bad pub food. And I’m not going to do its reputation any favours when I tell you that when recuperating from a sickness bug that floored my entire family and made me lose my appetite for an entire week, this is the first thing that I actually fancied eating.

And who did I turn to for a recipe to cook this unfashionable foodstuff but the most uncool of cookery writers – Delia. I’ve cooked this dish many, many times and I don’t bother experimenting with other recipes because it works so well. First you boil the joint in cider which is a good way to use that run-of-the-mill stuff (like Strongbow) that sits around going out of date after a big party. Nigella does a similar thing with coke (the fizzy drink sort) which sounds bizarre but is probably nice and I’ve also seen recipes using ginger beer.

As a Sunday roast gammon is the boring one, the one that doesn’t come with anything – no stuffing, no Yorkshires, maybe just a splodge of parsley or mustard sauce (which I couldn’t stand as a child). But the great thing about a nice bit of gammon (and something that you only really appreciate as an adult who has to cook their own dinners) is that you can do so much with the left overs. A couple of slices are great with oven chips and a fried egg, or you can slice into thin strips and toss with linguine, egg yolks and parsley for a carbonara type dish. But for me sliced in a sandwich with English mustard is the best.

Some people serve gammon as an addition to turkey for Christmas dinner. That’s never been a tradition in our family but I think it sounds like a nice idea and this recipe would be perfect because you could do the boiling part a day or two before and then roast on Christmas day once the turkey is out of the oven resting.

Delia’s sugar-glazed gammon

Serves 4 with left overs

  • 1 piece of middle cut gammon, rolled, about 1kg – I prefer mine smoked but it doesn’t have to be
  • 1 onion studded with a few cloves
  • A bayleaf
  • 570ml dry cider
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper corns
  • 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of English mustard

Put the gammon in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring it to the boil and then throw out the water which will look disgusting – all grey and foamy.

Now add the bayleaf, peppercorns and onion and pour in 425ml of cider and enough water to cover the meat. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for one hour.

Remove the gammon, let it cool and then remove the string and skin with a sharp knife. If you are doing this part in advance then wrap in cling film and store in the fridge until ready to roast.

Preheat the oven to 190oC fan.

Stand the gammon up (fat side uppermost) and smear the mustard and brown sugar over the surface – it’s easiest to do this with your hands. Then put the joint into a roasting pan with the remaining cider in the bottom and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, basting the joint a couple of times with the juices.

NOTE: In the original recipe Delia studs the gammon with cloves all over before roasting. This probably looks prettier but I don’t bother with this as I find the taste of that many cloves a bit overbearing.

Smeared with mustard and sugar before entering the oven.

Smeared with mustard and sugar before entering the oven.

I like to serve gammon with ‘pommes coq d’or’ (pictured in the main photo)

Pommes coq d’or 

Serves 4

Take 5 medium sized floury potatoes (I use Wilja). Cut the potatoes as thinly as you can with a sharp knife (or with a mandolin if you have one and can be bothered to get it out and wash it up). Generously butter a shallow tin (mine is 23cm diameter and 4 cm deep) and layer the potatoes in the tin overlapping them slightly. I save the neatest ones for the top. – you want about 4 layers. Crush two cloves of garlic and add this to 250g of chicken stock (made up with half a Knorr chicken stock pot), along with 10 twists of the pepper mill. Pour the stock over the potatoes until it comes to just under the top layer (you may not need it all), then dot the top of the potatoes with butter. Bake in the oven at 180oC fan for 40 minutes foil-covered and then 30 minutes without foil or until the top is brown and crispy.

Weekend breakfast – pancakes, pancakes!

pancakes

In our family weekend breakfasts have to be a bit special and for us this usually means either eggs or pancakes. This recipe for scotch pancakes comes from the Be-Ro Flour Home Recipes book and it’s the one my mum always used. These really excite my children and they’re so quick to knock up. In terms of the effort versus pleasure ratio they’re a complete winner and it’s a great recipe to have to hand when you’ve run out of bread in the morning.

Dropped scones (in our house called Scotch pancakes)

100g self-raising flour
25g caster sugar (the original recipe uses 50g but I think this makes the pancakes too sweet, especially if your favourite topping is golden syrup!)
Pinch of salt
1 egg
Milk to mix (about 4 tablespoons)
Oil for frying

Measure the flour, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the egg. Add a drop of milk and stir with a spoon until the mixture comes together in a thick batter. Add a little more milk gradually until you have a dropping consistency.

Drop a desert spoon of batter into a moderately hot frying pan greased with a little oil (I use groundnut or rapeseed oil, never olive oil). You can usually fit 3 or 4 into the pan at a time.

Turn over once the pancakes start to bubble and are golden brown on the underside.

Serve with plenty of your favourite topping. I love lashings of golden syrup, my daughter likes raspberry jam and my son prefers them plain or, as a special treat, chocolate spread.

This recipe cooks about 10-12 pancakes. This is usually enough to feed my two hungry children and myself.

My husband dislikes these basic dropped scones as he says they’re a bit stodgy. He prefers Nigella’s delicious Ricotta hotcakes (http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/ricotta-hotcakes-229) which are super light and fluffy. However,  as they involve ricotta as an extra ingredient (which you have to remember to buy at the supermarket), an extra bowl, egg separating and whisking, I’m afraid these don’t get cooked very often.

NOTE: The title of this post comes from Eric Carle’s children’s book ‘Pancakes, Pancakes!’. It’s such a great story that involves a small boy having to go to great lengths to source all the ingredients for his much desired breakfast pancake. He has to thresh the wheat to make flour, milk the cow and so on.