Just a quick post today to tell you about my scrumptious spinach soup. I have an autumnal cold and while I’m not feeling particularly unwell, it is nevertheless uncomfortable and annoying. At 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon I realised I was hungry but had not planned anything for lunch. Some hot, soothing soup was all I could think about but did not have any in the house. Anyway, I really don’t like shop-bought soups: I find they’re over-flavoured, mainly of onion, and that this flavour lingers at the back of the mouth for hours afterwards.
So I made spinach soup. First, I took a medium-sized potato, peeled and diced it and sweated it in butter for about 15 minutes (simmering oven). Then I added 450g frozen spinach (I didn’t happen to have any fresh spinach in the house; this soup was not planned) and lots of salt and pepper and let this cook for another 10 minutes or so before adding 500ml of chicken stock. It was fortuitous that I’d made lots of stock the previous day, but I expect a stock cube or some Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon powder would have done the job too. I grated in some nutmeg, brought it all to simmering point and let it cook (in the simmering oven) for another 15 minutes. I took it out and let it cool for a few minutes before blending it in the pan using my handheld blender. I then checked the seasoning and temperature and ladled some into a mug, drizzled on a little cream and voilà.
One of the reasons I haven’t blogged much lately is that I’m unhappy with the photos I’ve taken of what I’ve cooked. I read so many beautiful blogs and food websites that I’m sometimes embarrassed to include my pathetic iPhone camera efforts. Since I’m not particularly interested in photography (unless someone else is taking the photos), I might just have to overcome the shame and carry on regardless.
My next post will probably be about Christmas cake. Too early, you might say, but you’d be wrong.
In this post a year ago I mentioned my Norwegian grandmother’s apple cake. It has become a Hardy family tradition to have it on Christmas Eve, but that doesn’t stop us having it at other times of the year. I have vivid memories of evening coffee time at my grandparents’ house in Oslo when cake would often be served.
I made the Norwegian apple cake this weekend for second son’s birthday. It’s not a typical birthday cake but I don’t think that matters. We managed to get his brothers to come along and gathered in London for tea and cake which we consumed while watching the England v Wales Six Nations rugby match.
I don’t think my grandmother, who is no longer with us, would mind if I gave you the recipe. It’s extremely easy to make. You can keep it just as it is, or add cinnamon to the apples or sprinkle some flaked almonds over it, or both.
Norwegian Apple Cake
You will need a 20cm/8″ springform cake tin, greased and base-lined with greaseproof paper or bake-o-glide.
Conventional oven: pre-heat to 160º-170ºC
4 Bramley apples
125g plus 1 tbsp caster sugar
125g butter, softened
240g self-raising flour
1 large egg
Peel, core and slice the apples and place the slices in a bowl with the juice of a lemon to stop them going brown. Add the tablespoon of sugar
Place the apples in a saucepan with a little water, let’s say 3mm deep. Cook them for a minutes on the Aga simmering plate or your hob, giving them the occasional stir with a wooden spoon. When they’re all soft, remove from the heat and leave to cool
Make your cake batter by placing the sugar, butter, flour and egg in a bowl and beating the mixture. I use my electric mixer
Press two thirds of this mixture into the base of your prepared tin
Then spoon the stewed apples over this but not right up to the edge. If you feel you have too much apple mixture (after all, Bramleys vary in size) save some (freeze it if necessary) to have with roast pork at a later date
On a floured surface very gently roll out the remaining third of the batter and then cut it into strips about 1.5cms wide
Arrange these strips in a lattice pattern over your cake. You don’t have to make a complicated over and under pattern. The dough is very soft and the strips might break as you pick them up. Don’t worry: you can just patch them together as you place them. As you can see from the photos, mine does not look remotely professional
Bake your cake until golden brown. You can’t test it because of the apples. I find it usually takes between 35 and 45 minutes. I start checking it at about 25.
You can serve it warm (but not piping hot) or at room temperature, dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon. I’m not a cream person but this cake really is best served with a dollop of lightly whipped cream.
I hope it’s still correct to say apples are in season, because it’s already a couple of weeks since I made this apple cake with autumn in mind and only now am I getting round to writing about it. On the other hand, it’s not exactly a seasonal cake because we all cook with apples throughout the year and to make this cake I bought Bramley apples from the supermarket.
Regular readers will remember that I like making apple cakes and prefer them to pies and crumbles, partly because they work both as puddings (with whipped cream, say) and as teatime cakes.
You can’t have two many apple cake recipes in your repertoire, in my view, and I’m happy to add this Delia recipe to mine. The lazy baker in me particularly appreciated the fact that peeling the Bramleys is optional. That was a no brainer: I didn’t peel them.
To make the job even simpler I used the all-in-one method to mix all the ingredients together before folding in the apples and orange zest.
225g self-raising flour
1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 Bramley apples
175g soft light brown sugar
2 large eggs
75g butter, softened
Grated zest of an orange
1 tbsp milk (if needed)
A little icing sugar
Conventional oven: pre-heat to 180ºC
Grease and base-line a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin
Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into your mixing bowl and add the butter, sugar and eggs
Beat until thoroughly blended. I used my KitchenAid. You could use an electric hand whisk
Chop the apples into small dice (with or without peel, remember) and fold into the mixture with the orange zest. Add a little milk if the mixture seems dry
Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin
Bake in the baking oven of your Aga (or in the centre of a conventional oven at 180ºC) for about 1 hour, but do check on it every 10 minutes or so after the first half hour. I put a piece of greaseproof paper loosely on top at this point because my cake was looking a little dark
The cake is done when it feels springy to touch and is starting to shrink away from the sides of the tin
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so before turning out onto a rack