Pear and Ginger Upside Down Cake

Sticky delicious caramel, soft juicy pear, and a light sponge with a gentle hum of ginger.

It’s that time of year, frosty mornings, long dark nights and cravings for comfort food.

This cake is perfect with custard as a dessert, or just enjoy a slice along with a cup of tea or coffee.

Use pears that are not too soft and mushy, so they will stay in tact during baking.

Yummy as a tea time treat.

Ingredients

For the caramel

1 Orange (juice, keep the zest for the sponge)

60 Grams Butter

330 Grams Brown sugar

For the cake

4 Pears

1 Tsp Ground ginger

3 Eggs

375 Grams Plain flour

2 1/2 Tsp Baking powder

220 Grams Sugar

250 ml Vegetable oil

125 ml Milk

Method

  1. Add the sugar, butter, and orange juice to a pan. Bring to boil, ans simmer for 2-3 minutes until caramel begins to thicken. Allow to cool slightly
  2. Add the sugar, oil, orange zest, eggs to a bowl and with an electric whisk until throughly combined
  3. Then add the flour, baking powder, and groung ginger gradually. Half way through adding the other ingredients add the milk.
  4. Whisk until the batter is thoroughly combined
  5. Peel and core the pears, cut into thick slices or quarters . Arrange in the bottom of a well greased 9 inch spring form cake tin
  6. Cover the pears with the caramel, then add the cake batter on top.
  7. Bake in an oven preheated to 220 degrees for 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 180 degree and bake for a further 55 minutes, or until a skewer comes cleanly out of cake.
  8. Allow to cool completely before removing from the tin

Barm Brack

Plump juicy fruit loaf with a hint of orange and spice. Yummy with butter, and is also amazing toasted.

Halloween is a big thing in Ireland. Before all the commercialised plastic jack o laterns, fake cobwebs and Americanised trick or treating, Holloween was an ancient Celtic festival. According to legend Halloween was the night your ancestors souls returned to earth. Mischief and mishaps could occur, and there is also sorts of folklore that changes depending on where you go in the country.

Barm back (bairin breac in Irish, and apologies to all Irish speakers if I’ve misspelled this) was traditionally eaten at this time. This roughly translates as speckled loaf. The loaf is speckled with raisins and sultanas plump from being soaked in tea. There are stories that people would include different items and if you got it in your slice of the bread that would be your fortune for the year. These included things like if you got a ring you would get married, a dried pea meant you would stay single, and piece of cloth foretold poverty. There are various recipes, some use yeast, this one doesn’t and is much more straightforward. I used ordinary tea in this recipe, but you can also use teas like Earl Grey, or fruit teas. Some people include treacle, but I don’t like it so I left it out. The grated orange zest isn’t traditional but it’s what I like.

Ingredients

275 Grams Raisins

100 Grams Sultana

50 Grams Mixed peel (some supermarkets sell mixed fruit, so you can just total up to 425 Grams and use this instead)

300ml Black tea

200 Grams Brown sugar

225 Grams Self raising flour

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1/4 Tsp Nutmeg

Grated zest of 1 orange

Line your baking tin with parchment paper, or else grease the tin well

Method

  1. The night before you make the barm brack, make 300ml of black tea. I just added a tea bag to hot water for a couple of minutes, don’t let it stew for too long or it will get bitter. You don’t need to leave this overnight, but try to leave it at least 3-4 hours
  2. In a bowl, add the sugar, flour, spices and orange zest and combine. Add an egg and then add the tea and soaked fruit and mix well.
  3. Transfer to a round 8 inch baking tin and bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 90 mins. Because there is quite a lot sugar in this loaf, it goes quite dark. This is how it’s meant to be, but about half way through I cover the top with some tin foil to stop it taking on too much colour before it’s fully cooked.

Date and Walnut Wheaten Bread

Tell me whats not to like about bread still warm from the oven, and smeared with butter.

One of my favourite places to visit in Northern Ireland is Newcastle Co. Down. There are lots of things to love, breathtaking scenery, amusement arcades, seaweed baths, a lovely promenade, and the world class Tollymore forest Park. I visited recently and tried to find a little bakery that used to sell the most amazing date and walnut wheaten bread. Sadly the shop is gone but the visit inspired me to come up with a version of it which isn’t half bad.

The perfect mix of sweet and savoury.

This bread is great just sliced and slavered in butter/jam. It’s also savoury enough to taste great when topped with cheese, or along side soup. You can also devide the bread mix into eight to make little wheaten rolls.

Ingredients

275 Grams Plain flour

200 Grams Wholemeal flour

175 Grams Dates (chopped)

75 Grams Walnuts (chopped)

50 Grams Butter (melted)

1 Egg

1 Tsp Baking soda

1/4 Tsp Salt

250ml Buttermilk (I didn’t have buttermilk, so you can improvise as I did. I used normal milk and added 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and left it to sit for 10 minutes)

Simple round loaf with a cross cut across the centre

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees
  2. Add the flours, walnuts, dates, salt and baking soda to a bowl and combine
  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add the egg, and melted butter. Add the milk a little at a time until you have quiet a moist dough.I like to use my hands to mix the ingredients, but you can also use a wooden spoon.
  4. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, and shape into a circle, around 14-16cm in diameter
  5. Put the loaf onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut a cross across the loaf, about a third of the depth of the loaf
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, check the loaf is ready by tapping the bottom to makes it sounds hollow

Braised Beef with Cheese Scone Dumplings

I made this as the main course for the October Supper Club, and had clean plates all round. This is proper Winter is coming, comfort food. Beef, cooked long and slow in dark velvety beer to make a rich unctuous gravy.

Serve up with some buttered greens, I made dauphinoise potatoes but mashed potatoes works well too.

If this wasn’t delicious enough, light tasty cheese scones bake on top, giving a crunchy top. Plenty of winter vegetables add to the rich savouryness of it all. This also freezes really well.

The lovely folks at NORN IRON Brew Co. gave me some of their amazing beers, and I used their Temple Imperial Porter, but if this isn’t available other dark stouts will do.

Serves 6

Ingredients

500ml Porter, stout or other dark beer

100 Grams Smoked Bacon

750 Grams Chuck beef

2 Carrots

1 Leek

2 Stalks of celery

1 Tbsp Tomato Puree

250ml Beef stock

4 Stalks of Thyme (or 1 Tsp of dried thyme)

Salt and pepper

For the scones

200 Grams Self-raising flour

50 Grams Butter

100 Grams Mature Cheddar Cheese (grated)

50-75ml Milk

1/2 Tsp Garlic powder

Method

  1. Cut the bacon into small strips and fry in a large dry pan until crispy. Remove the bacon and set to one side
  2. Cut the beef into 2-3 cm chunks and brown in the same pan used to fry the bacon, remove from the pan
  3. Cut the vegetables into chunks and add to the pan, cook for 5 minutes, add the tomato puree and cook for a further 5 minutes
  4. Add the meat back to the pan, add the the stock and beer to the pan and stir to make sure all the tasty crispy bits get stirred into the sauce
  5. Cover with a lid and simmer for 90 minutes
  6. Remove the lid and check the seasoning, allow to simmer for another 30 minutes without the lid to allow the sauce to thicken, then allow to cook
  7. For the scones, cut the butter into small cubes, and rub into the flour
  8. Add the garlic powder, and grated cheese and stir until we’ll distributed
  9. Add the milk a little at a time, until the mix comes together and is moist but not too sticky
  10. Turn onto a floured surface, and cut into 6 equal sized pieces (don’t handle too much or the scones will be tough)
  11. Place the scones on top of the beef mixture. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 30 minutes until crispy and golden

Possibly the filthiest brownies ever made.

Fudgy brownie, topped with chewy marshmallow and then a layer of crunchy rice crispies coated in peanut butter and chocolate.

Anyone who follows this blog has probably worked out that I try to make reasonably healthy recipes. However, I think there is always room for some filth in your life. A good basic brownie is hard to beat, and there are endless variations you can make. I like food with different textures, so when I saw a version of this from Yammies Noshery, I had to try to make them. Apart from the fact these taste like a little square of heaven, they’re also gluten free. So you can treat your intolerant loved ones to something other than a coconut macaroon. These are great for Halloween parties or judge because you feel like a bit of filth.

Ingredients

For the brownies

260 Grams White sugar

180 Mil Vegetable oil

4 Eggs

1 Tsp Vanilla bean paste

200 Grams Cocoa powder

1/4 Tsp Salt

60 Grams Chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)

For the topping

180 Gram Bag of mini marshmallows

250 Grams Chocolate

160 Grams Peanut butter

75 Grams Butter

400 Grams Rice crispies

These little nuggets of deliciousness melt and toast up to add another layer of flavour

Method

  1. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking tin, and preheat your oven to 180 degrees
  2. For the brownies, add the oil and sugar together and mix until we’ll combined. Whisk in the eggs, and vanilla, then add the cocoa powder and salt and mix until combined.
  3. Fold in the chocolate chips, and pour into your lined baking tin. Bake of 17 minutes (if you prefer a more cakey brownie leave them in the oven for another couple of minutes)
  4. Take the brownies out of the oven and sprinkle the top with mini marshmallows, and return to the oven for another 8 minutes
  5. The marshmallows should have melted and be looking slightly toasted around the edged
  6. Allow to cool before adding the next topping (I didn’t wait and it was a nightmare to spread)
  7. For the crunch topping, put the chocolate, butter, and peanut butter in a large microwave proof dish.
  8. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time and stir, taking care that the mix doesn’t burn
  9. When melted, add the rice crispies and mix until they are fully coated
  10. Spread the mix over the cooled marshmallow topped brownies and allow to set before slicing into small squares (these are seriously rich, and can always have another one if you can manage it)
Allow the marshmallows to cool be trying to spread the crunch topping

Plum Crumble

Autumn is my favourite time of year, not just because of the colours and dark nights. What I really love are the fantastic fruit and vegetables that come into their own.

Sweet and juicy Victoria plums

I love warming, stick to your ribs comfort food at this time of year. I’ve had some really bland apple crumbles, so for a while I experimented with different versions and this is my favourite. I’ve used cinnamon, but cardamom also works really well.

Crunchy crumble and jammy fruity base.

I also added chopped dates, which adds a lovely toffee back note. The crumble has oats and nuts to add flavour and texture. It comes out of the oven with a crunchy topping and gooey jammy fruit base. I like mine with custard, but it also works well with ice cream.

Ingredients

600 Grams Plums (stones removed)

75 Grams Dates (finely chopped)

1/2 Tsp Cinnamon

100 Grams Brown Sugar

200 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Porridge oats

50 Grams Almonds (chopped)

100 Grams Butter (cut into cubes)

Method

  1. Cut the plums in half and remove the stones
  2. Put the plums in an oven proof dish, and mix with the cinnamon and chopped dates
  3. For the crumble, you can add the flour, and butter to a food processor and mix. I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of getting the food processor out and then cleaning it. Instead I added the ingredients to a bowl and rubbed the flour and butter together
  4. When the flour, and butter are combined, add the sugar, oats and nuts and mix well
  5. Sprinkle the crumble over the fruit. Put the dish in an oven preheated to 180 degrees. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until brown and delicious

Garlic Bread Vegetable Bake

I did the thing I normally do when I go to a farmer’s market. I bought way too much random stuff because I thought it looked good. I got it home and then had to think what I was going to do with it.

Note to self, stop buying too much stuff at the market.

This is a scrummy mix of colours and textures. Delicious Autumn vegetables in a creamy sauce, with a little bit of heat from smoked paprika, topped with crunchy, cheesy garlic bread.

Who doesn’t like garlic bread (weirdos, that’s who). You can use any combination of vegetables you like, pumpkin, butternut squash, or green beans also work well.

Crunchy Cheesy Perfection

I tried this recipe on one of my oldest friends. I was nervous because she owns a steak restaurant and is a confirmed carnivore and got two enthusiastic thumbs up (still sorry I forgot to send you home with a doggy bag Mags, but here is the recipe as promised). Go get your comfort food on.

Ingredients

1 Tbsp Olive oil

250 Grams Brussels sprouts

150 Grams Cavelo Nero (or Kale)

1 Pepper

1 Onion

175 Grams Mushrooms

2 Courgettes

400 Grams Cream cheese

250ml Vegetable stock

1/2 Tsp Smoked paprika

Handful of parsley

25 Grams Butter

2 Cloves of garlic

50 Grams Cheddar Cheese

1 Baguette

Method

  1. Cut the bottoms of the Brussels sprouts and halve. Remove the stalks from the cavelo nero and slice. Cook the sprouts and cavelo nero in the vegetable stock for 5 minutes, until just tender
  2. Slice the courgettes, onions, mushrooms and pepper, and fry in the olive oil in a large frying pan for about 5 minutes until soft
  3. Add the sprouts, cavelo nero and vegetable stock to the frying pan. Sprinkle the smoked paprika over the vegetables, and add finely chopped parsley and cream cheese
  4. Mix until thoroughly combined
  5. Crush or mince the garlic and combine with butter
  6. Slice the baguette into 2cm slices, and spread with the garlic butter
  7. Put the vegetable mix into an oven proof dish and top with the slices of buttered baguette
  8. Top with grated cheese and bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees, for 30 minutes until golden brown