Photo walk to Preston Park

 Stunning weather today so I took a stroll to Preston Park, hoping to catch some winter sun. Preston is one of Brighton’s nicest parks and inside the walled garden, attached to Preston Manor, there is a pet cemetery. Quite sweet in a morbid kind of way.

Spiced pumpkin and sultana cake

I baked this cake using the fresh pumpkins I bought at the farmer’s market on Friday. It’s a recipe adapted from the ‘River Cottage Veg Everyday’ book (a fantastic book with plenty of do-able recipes).  I added orange zest, juice and sultanas instead of raisins; I often prefer sultanas because they tend to be much more juicy than raisins.

The perfect cake for a relaxing Sunday afternoon while curled up in front of a film.

You will need:

Butter or sunflower oil for greasing your tin
200g light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs, separated
200g finely grated raw pumpkin
Finely grated zest and juice of half lemon
Finely grated zest and juice of half an orange
100g of raisins or sultanas
100g ground almonds
200g of self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1. ) Preheat the oven to 170oC/Gas Mark 3. Lightly grease a loaf tin, about 20 x 10 cm, and line with baking paper.

2.) Beat the sugar and egg yolks with a whisk for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is pale and creamy. Lightly stir in the grated pumpkin, lemon and orange zest and juice, raisins and ground almonds. Sift the flour, salt and spices together over the mixture and then fold them in, using a large metal spoon.

3.) In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Stir a heaped teaspoonful of the egg white into the cake mixture to loosen it a little, and then fold in the rest as lightly as you can.

4.) Pour the mixture into your loaf tin and gently tap the tin on the worksurface to level the mixture.

5.) Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

6.) Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe

Lewes Farmer’s Market

I was up early yesterday to pick up some seasonal goodies at Lewes Farmer’s Market. Celeriac (first photo) mash and local sausages are on the menu tonight.

Sticky toffee pear cake

325g (11oz) caster sugar (you’ll need 150g of this for the toffee, the rest for the cake mixture)
4 medium pears, peeled, cored and sliced into quarters
175g (6oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
125g (4½oz) butter, melted
2 free-range eggs
50ml (2fl oz) semi-skimmed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Thick double cream

1. Preheat your oven to 180oC (160oC fan) gas mark 4.

2. Line an 8in loose-bottomed round cake tin with baking paper.

3. Put 150g (5oz) sugar in a heavy-based saucepan and add 3 tablespoons of water. Dissolve the sugar over a gentle heat, then turn up the heat and boil until the sugar turns a rich amber colour. Don’t stir the mixture! Simply swirl the pan to distribute the heat evenly.

4. As soon as it turns to toffee, remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture into the base of your prepared tin (it’s a good idea to put your cake tin on a baking tray in case any of the mixture leaks out)

5. Allow the toffee mixture to cool, then arrange the pear slices in a neat circular pattern on top.

6. Next, sift the flour and baking powder together. Add the remaining sugar, and stir until well-blended. Add the melted butter, eggs, milk and vanilla, then mix at high speed for 1 minute to form a smooth batter.

7. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour, or until the cake springs back when pressed in the centre.

8. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then invert on a wire rack and serve warm with a generous spoonful of thick cream and a dusting of icing sugar.

Roasted parsnip and chestnut soup

This delicious thick soup is a combination of seasonal ingredients, perfect for those crisp autumnal days. 

25/30 chestnuts
750ml of vegetable stock
5 medium sized parsnips, peeled and cut into rounds
50 ml pouring cream
1 tbsp olive oil or a knob of butter
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium sized potato, peeled and cut into chunks
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 2200C.

2. Put the parsnip rounds into and roasting tray, top with tbsp of the olive oil or butter and then pop the tray into the oven and roast for 30 minutes until softened.

3. Next, score the chestnuts with a little cross, put them onto a baking tray and roast for 20 minutes. When the chestnuts are done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool for a moment. The shells retain a lot of heat from the oven so if you don’t leave them to cool you risk burning your fingers! However, it is much easier to get the shells off while they’re still warm)

4. Carefully shell the chestnuts, cover them with foil to keep warm and moist and set aside.

5. In a large saucepan, warm a tsp of olive oil (or butter). Sauté the onion and garlic until soft and add your parsnips and potatoes, gently mix all the ingredients together.

6. Pour the stock over the mixture and leave the saucepan (with its lid on) to gently simmer for 15/20 minutes or until the potatoes begin to soften and fall apart in the liquid.

7. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the cream a bit at a time, stirring after each addition.

8. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with chunky granary bread.

Tip 1: If you want your soup to be silky smooth then push the mixture through a sieve to get rid of any small lumps – I favor rustic soups so I personally never bother with the sieving.

Tip 2: It’s important to score fresh chestnuts them before putting them in the oven or they are likely to explode when cooked!

Autumn in Sussex

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been! 

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Greek yogurt and warm berries

The weather was beautiful here in Brighton today, the sun was shining and the sky was a clear pale blue. Being in the warm sun made me pine for summer fruit, and then I remembered that I’d stashed away a bag of mixed berries in the freezer back in August. To impatient to wait until they had thawed out, I decided to warm them on the stove and then pour them over a bowl of creamy greek yogurt. An absolutely divine breakfast!

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