Barmbrack Bundt

 

{singing} ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeeaaaaaarrr’ … or spookiest, or something. Anyway, long story short, I am a Halloween fruitcake – which, is just as well, seeing as I made one to celebrate. Getting back to my Irish roots I opted for a spiced Barmbrack of sorts – this is my version and it’s half way between a bread and cake. The bundt tin wasn’t just a frivolous decision either. It’s actually a bit of a nod to the ‘ring’ that is usually secreted inside the bread. I’m not a big fan of putting choke-inducing items in my food (even if they are wrapped in baking parchment) so the ring shape will have to suffice.

 

If you didn’t already know most of those awesome Halloweeny traditions we love so much originated in Eire – yup, even pumpkin carving, although we apparently used gourds/turnips back in the day. The celts seem to share a lot of the same folklore, which probably goes some way to explain why I feel so at home here in Cornwall … they too were a fan of the old turnip head around this time of year. Also, if you think America has the monopoly on Halloween, my home-town of Derry topped a recent USA Today poll for ‘Best Halloween Destination’ ahead of Salem and Transylvania no less – I actually feel pretty lucky to have grown up in a place with such a rich Halloween heritage and have so many fond memories of dressing-up and trick or treating as a kid. Side note; if you want to be truly terrified google ‘Irish Jack-o’-lantern’ – not for the faint hearted but would definitely have done a great job warding off those evil spirits. Me? I’ll be sticking to my usual goofy face.

 

Back to the Barmbrack. Typically a yeasted bread, I honestly couldn’t be bothered to faff about with kneading yesterday – I was still exhausted from my trip back to Cornwall, and needed something to ease me back into the kitchen. I did, however, opt for a spelt/strong white flour mix, which resulted in a wonderfully bready texture … perfect for slathering in dairy-free butter and serving alongside a hot cuppa. I soaked the raisins in cold tea leftover from breakfast (yes, I do use a teapot – such is my tea addiction) and once drained I poured the reserved liquid into my bread batter for extra oomph. It might not be the most authentic barmbrack in the world but by golly does it taste good. In fact, I’m going to treat myself to another slice, right … about … now.

 

what you’ll need

130g raisins

100ml cold black tea

250g spelt flour

200g strong white flour

100g plus 1 tbsp light brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger, allspice and nutmeg

250ml almond milk

3 tbsp vegan margarine

1 tsp molasses

 

for the glaze

3 tbsp light brown sugar

 1 tbsp water

 

what you’ll do

place the raisins in a bowl and pour over the cold tea. set aside to soak for about an hour. drain and reserve the cold tea liquid.

 

pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

 

sift the flours, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl.

 

gently heat the almond milk, margarine, molasses and 1 tbsp of light brown sugar in a milk-pan. once the margarine has melted, whisk the mixture until frothy and combined.

 

make a well in the centre of the flour mix and pour in the warm almond milk mixture along with the reserved tea. fold gently until combined before stirring through the soaked raisins.

 

transfer the batter to a greased bundt tin and bake for 45-50 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. let the bread cool slighty before gently tipping out onto a cooling rack.

 

whilst it cools, make the glaze by placing the sugar and water into a small saucepan. simmer until it reduces before brushing over the warm bread. let the bread cool completely before slicing. serve with a generous smear of vegan butter and a hot cup of tea.

 

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Creamy Aubergine Dip

 

I’m currently visiting the folks in Ireland and because everything leading up to this trip was borderline chaos I’m only just finding the time to blog. I know! Excuses, excuses. Anyway, I hope this ‘Aubergine Dip’ (mutabal, baba ganoush, whatever you wish to call it) will in some way make up for my absence – it’s from my book (yep, that one on the sidebar, nudge nudge, wink wink) and is a recipe I rely on more than I care to admit … it makes for a particularly good alternative to hummus. I’ve served it to reluctant guests at dinner parties (I would advise not mentioning it’s made from aubergines prior to sampling) but is an equally good solitary indulgence option – a bowl of this and some toasted pitta makes me a very happy girl.

 

There is a little intro in the book where I explain my aversion to ‘smoking’ them the long-winded way – namely hovering over a flame … side note; I currently don’t possess a gas hob so this would be an impossibility anyway. Instead, I prefer to pop them in the oven until they are soft and unctuous before scooping out the flesh and mashing thoroughly by hand. Please don’t be tempted to use a food processor, as you will lose all that wondrous texture, which is a crucial part of the consuming pleasure, in my opinion.

 

Yes, it’s a just a dip but that doesn’t mean I won’t wax lyrical about it. Whether its part of a mezze or simply on its own, this is a humble bowl of greatness that I just can’t get bored of. Hope you enjoy it too!

 

what you’ll need

oil, for greasing

2 aubergines

1 garlic clove

½ teaspoon sea salt

30ml extra virgin olive oil, plus

extra for drizzling

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

50g tahini

30g fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly

chopped, plus extra to garnish

salt and freshly ground

black pepper

toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

 

what you’ll do

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4. Oil a baking sheet.

 

Slice the aubergines lengthways and place them on the baking sheet. Bake

for 30–40 minutes until the flesh is soft, turning them over halfway through.

 

Cover and cool completely before scooping out the flesh. Chop thoroughly

with a knife and then mash with a fork, ensuring there are no lumps.

 

Pound the garlic and sea salt together using a pestle and mortar.

Place the aubergine flesh in a bowl along with the crushed garlic, extra

virgin olive oil, lemon juice and smoked paprika. Mix thoroughly before

stirring in the tahini and parsley.

 

Season to taste and serve topped with a generous drizzle of extra virgin oil,

a little more parsley and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. This is lovely

served with crispbreads, pitta, crudités or as a spread in sandwiches.

 

Taken from ‘Keep it Vegan’ published by Kyle Books. Photo Credit: Ali Allen

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Warm Pumpkin & Red Onion Salad


 
It’s officially pumpkin time and I’m getting in early this year with a savoury dish that will knock yer socks off. There are so many ways to serve pumpkin but I adore it simply roasted and served in a warm salad alongside a few of my other favourite seasonal ingredients … cavolo nero being just one! There’s certainly a lot happening in this plate (what with the crunchy toasted pine nuts, chewy raisins and creamy tahini, maple dressing) but each component plays a vital part in bringing these incredible ingredients together in one harmonious plate of yum. I honestly can’t think of a better way to welcome in this most glorious time of year – almost like a gentle farewell to Summer and a fond hello to Fall.
 
Walking around Loe Bar last Sunday and watching all the autumnal colours appear almost before my very eyes made me feel so warm and fuzzy inside, I couldn’t wait to get cracking with all my harvest-time cooking. With so much incredible produce at our disposal at this time of year, I can’t help but get so excited for the season ahead … crumbles, pies, stews and so much more. Bring it on!

 

what you’ll need

1/2 medium-sized edible pumpkin

2 red onions

1 heaped tsp dried oregano

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp chilli flakes (plus more to serve)

4-5 stalks of cavolo nero or kale

1 large garlic clove

1 tbsp toasted pine nuts

1 tbsp raisins

sea salt

 

for the tahini dressing

1 tbsp tahini

juice 1/2 orange

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tbsp maple syrup

salt & pepper

 

what you’ll do

pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Cut the pumpkin into wedges, scoop out the seeds and add to a large baking dish along with the quartered red onion … I like to keep the skins on for cooking, as they retain their shape much better – you can peel it off once cooked.

 

toss the pumpkin and red onion in a tablespoon or so of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, chilli flakes and pepper – don’t salt them at this stage or the vegetables will leech their juices and lose that ‘roasted’ quality. Roast for around 45-50 minutes until soft – the red onion may be cooked a little sooner, in which case remove with a slotted spoon and set aside until needed.

 

heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. finely slice the garlic clove and add to pan. gently sautee for a minute or two, ensuring it doesn’t colour before tearing in the cavolo nero (or kale). season with salt and pepper and stir fry on a medium-high for several minutes – you’re aiming for a slightly crispy texture.

 

heat a small dry skillet and toss in the pine nuts. toast over medium-high heat, shaking frequently to ensure they don’t burn – 5-7 minutes should suffice.

 

place all the dressing ingredients into a pestle and mortar and vigorously mix until smooth.

 

once the pumpkin wedges are perfectly roasted, remove from oven, season with salt and pepper, and set aside for a few minutes to let them cool slightly. now it’s time to build your salad …

 

place the pumpkin wedges on a large platter-style plate before dispersing the cavolo nero. scatter over the red onion, pine nuts and raisins before finishing with the creamy tahini, maple dressing. finish with a generous sprinkling of chilli flakes. serve at room temperature for an impressive starter or divide between two for a main course – it’s excellent served alongside some freshly cooked millet.

 

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