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Food & Drink

In Season: Apple Cake Recipe

September 24, 2014

In Season: Apple Cake Recipe

Choosing apple trees

We planted fruit trees almost ten years ago high up on our homestead and they’ve never fruited. Then, around three years ago, I bought Mr G a self pollinating variety on the advice of Arboretum garden centre manager Eamon Wall, an expert in the field of fruit growing. For the first time this year we’re seeing apples growing in our garden, branches bending, heavy with fruit, and we’re thrilled.

Lack of pollination

Apple trees can struggle above 600ft for various reasons including lack of pollinators, harsh winds and early frosts that damage the buds and at over 1,000ft we’ve not had much success with them. To be honest, we’d bought popular, cheap varieties (whispers not from a garden centre) when we should have looked for heirlooms or those more suited to our conditions, perhaps from Irish Seedsavers who have a fantastic collection. We have however, spotted some plums and pears growing on the older trees this year so we’re glad we haven’t given up on them. Perhaps it was thanks to our new bees, or simply that we had a mild winter followed by a dreamy summer here in Ireland, but this year we’re appreciating our new fruity treat.

apple treeAs the leaves turn golden our my mind turns to fruity puddings and cake. I was given this recipe for apple cake a few years ago by a friend and have mentioned it before but we enjoy it so much thought you might like to be reminded again. It’s delicious hot or cold, on its own or with cream. If you prefer a crumble topping with your apples, here’s a plum crumble recipe that’s topped with oats, nuts and syrup, just swap the plums for the new season apples.

If you don’t have apple trees in your garden, perhaps you could ask friends and neighbours who might have them and exchange them for a cake, a great way to open up a conversation. This isn’t the best photo I could have taken of it, but the cake was gone before I had time to snap a better photo! for Apple Cake Recipe:

190 g self-raising flour
pinch salt
150g butter or half margarine
1 free range egg
75g caster sugar
325g apples
lemon juice
2 tbsp apricot jam
2 tbsp granulated or Demerara sugar


Heat oven to 160°C then grease and line a 20 cm cake tin which should be at least 7.5 cm deep.

Cream the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Sieve the flour and salt then fold in to the creamed mixture.

Using a lightly floured board, gently pat or roll out three-quarters of the mixture and fit into the prepared tin (warning – very sticky. Cover hands in flour and ensure hands are very clean first and take off any rings!)

Peel, core and slice the apples and squeeze lemon over the top to keep their colour. Arrange the apples on top of the cake mixture. Heat the jam and brush or pour over the apples. Take the remaining cake mixture, roll out and either cut into strips and make place over the apples in a lattice fashion or roll flat and place over whole. Sprinkle the sugar over the top.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour. Cool on a rack and dust with icing sugar.

Hope you enjoy the cake as much as we do. Do you have a favourite seasonal apple recipe? I baked another cake recently that was just a simple sponge recipe with chopped apples added to the batter, delicious!

Food & Drink, Green

5 reasons why we should eat ‘in season’ (& eat rhubarb cake too)

April 17, 2014

Rhubarb PatchWe often hear the term ‘in season’ bandied about but I was asked recently why it was so important when food is readily available all year round – a good question in the age of convenience. The following post therefore gives five reasons why we should be thinking more carefully about the foods we buy and cook throughout the year. It’s followed by a few suggestions for rhubarb recipes as well as a very seasonal rhubarb crumble cake that I discovered this week after we found ourselves with a glut of duck eggs and ‘in season’ rhubarb stalks.

Rhubarb Crumble Cake CrumbsNumber 1. In season food that’s been freshly harvested has more nutrients and flavour than food that’s travelled hundreds of miles and/or has been stored before it reaches you.

After we pick fruit and vegetables they continue to breathe (known as respiration) which breaks down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Warm air can speed this process up, as in the case of apples for instance. For the commercial market apples are generally stored at cold temperatures for long periods of time (for a year or more in some cases), with low levels of oxygen and high levels of carbon dioxide added to them. After a few months under these conditions, their nutrient levels begin to diminish.  Even without long-term storage, it might take a week or two between a fruit or vegetable being picked, to when it’s delivered to the shop we buy it from. It may then be another week before we eat it.

When we buy ‘in season’ and locally, the food is generally sold within 48 hours of being picked and we’re more likely to use it quickly, perhaps excited and mindful that it’s so fresh.

Number 2. Buying seasonal food usually means we’re supporting local producers, farmers, farmers markets, CSAs and co-ops which is great for local economies. I wrote a post recently about the various schemes and projects we can support here if you’d like to find out more about them.

Number 3. Buying seasonal food means it’s usually cheaper. Buying a punnet of strawberries in June should be much cheaper than buying a punnet at Christmas. If it’s not, we should ask ourselves (or the shopkeeper) why not. Are the farmers getting a good deal?

winter squashNumber 4. Some societies believe that ‘in season’ food provides nutrients and ingredients that our bodies crave or need at certain times of the year. Somehow juicy soft fruits such as red currents and raspberries seem much more appealing when the sun is warm on our skins than in the cold winter months. Likewise we enjoy eating warming vegetable stews and soups loaded with root vegetables, pulses and winter squashes in the autumn months when we’re tucked up in front of cozy fires.

Number 5. Eating in season is good for the environment. At a time when climate change and fossil fuels are uppermost in many of our minds thanks to the recent IPCC report, there are less air and road miles used when we shop for and eat ‘in season’ local produce.

Buying more local and ‘in season’ produce doesn’t mean that we have to give up buying imported produce altogether, but that we become more aware of what’s growing or on offer at any particular time and choose it as often as we can over imported fruit and vegetables.

rhubarb plantsRhubarb Recipes

As a result of a sudden rhubarb glut in the Greenside Up household, I learnt this week that if we don’t have time to cook it all, it freezes very well. Just wash, trim and cut the stalks into 25mm pieces then blanch them in boiling water for 1-2 mins. Drain them, dry them then pack them into containers on their own. They can then be used for stewed fruits, pies and cakes when you have more time.

However, it seemed a shame to be in possession of so much rhubarb and not make something with it! I therefore chose this particular rhubarb crumble cake recipe because it uses lots of eggs and now that our duck is laying, we have an abundance.

Not used to baking with duck eggs, I googled and found that we can just straight-swap duck eggs with hen eggs. So I did. The resulting cake was light, fluffy and went down a treat but it did take longer to bake than the original Good Food recipe suggested, probably as a result of the slightly larger duck eggs.

Ducky & Bob, best pals since the fox attack

Ducky & Bob, best pals since the fox attack

If you’re searching for other rhubarb recipes, I’ve one here that the lovely Mona Wise published in her newspaper column last year for rhubarb cheesecake and another from Sarah of Cake in the Country for rhubarb lemonade that’s very refreshing at this time of year. There are instructions on the latter post too for growing and caring for rhubarb if you have any questions about it.

duck eggsRecipe for Rhubarb Crumble Cake

250g butter
250g caster sugar plus 1 tbsp
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs (I used duck)
300g plain flour, plus 7 tbsp
2 tsp baking powder
300g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced thinly
Preheat the over to 160°C/140°C fan/gas 3 and grease and line a 20cm deep cake tin.

Please note that since my old food mixer broke, I’ve been using a food processor for all my mixing and baking… 

Put the butter, 250g sugar and vanilla into a food processor and mix until the mixture is combined, light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time (I always break them into a cup first to check they’re fresh), and mix together before tipping the mixture into a large bowl. You wont need to do this if you use a food mixer. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture.

For the crumble topping, remove about 85g of the mixture with a spoon and put onto a plate then stir in the extra 7 tablespoons of flour mentioned in the ingredients list. Use a knife and fork to mix and chop this up until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the chopped rhubarb into the large bowl of flour and eggs and fold in until combined. Empty the mixture into the prepared cake tin and sprinkle the crumble topping over the top before finally sprinkling the remaining tablespoon of sugar over the top.

Place the tin onto the middle shelf of the oven for 1 hr 35 mins if using duck eggs (the Good Food recipe recommends 1 hr 15 mins for hen eggs). If the cake begins to brown or burn but is still runny in the middle when checked with a skewer, cover the top with a piece of tin foil.

When ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a while before turning out of the tin and cooling fully on a wire cooling rack.

rhubarb crumble cake

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

I’ve plans to make a rhubarb and honey compote this weekend with honey from a neighbours hives, making it a truly homegrown dessert. Do you have any favourite rhubarb recipes? What are your thoughts on ‘in season’ shopping? Do you think we’ve forgotten what ‘in season’ really means?

Food & Drink, Lifestyle

Sunday Snap – Four vegetable birthday cake surprise

September 15, 2013

Dee's Cake

This really is a snap given there were people waiting to eat it! Today I’m sharing a lovely birthday cake surprise made by Mr G. The Carrot Cake is a Good Housekeeping recipe and the Beetroot and Courgette Cake as well as the Green Tomato Buns can be found on the blog.

(Just to put the size of this cake into perspective, here’s the carrot cake part of of it having just been presented to me.)

Dee's Birthday Cake

Food & Drink

Beetroot Chocolate Cake Recipe

August 3, 2013

Beetroot Chocolate Cake Recipe“Now what would you be doing putting a perfectly good beetroot into a cake..?”

A good question from a man who loves his beetroot roasted. Why would you put vegetables into a cake?

I’m not a food scientist in any shape or form but having baked and eaten several courgette, carrot and green tomato cakes over the years, I’ve observed how moist they are, that you don’t need to add as much flour and that there’s no hint of the usual vegetable flavour in them. What better way of using up a glut of vegetables too! Most of us enjoy eating a moist sponge and once someone has been told they’ve just demolished a cake full of vegetables it might perhaps be enough to encourage them to try eating the real thing. It’s worth a try isn’t it?

Once grown and eaten, beetroot becomes a super food, jam-packed full of healthy vitamins. It’s easy to grow too – just pop the seeds directly into the soil about 2cm deep and three months later voilà! We usually bake the roots and steam the tops but now and again it’s nice to try something different and I’ve been really looking forward to baking a chocolate beetroot cake ever since I tried a slice last year.

Beetroot Chocolate CakeChocolate Beetroot Cake

After much searching, the recipe I finally settled on is one adapted from a Nigel Slater ‘Dish of the Day’. This isn’t a cake to be rushed. Continue Reading…

Food & Drink

Brussels Sprouts in Pine Nut Butter Recipe

December 3, 2011

Brussels Sprouts in Pine Nut Butter RecipeI have to admit to cooking this vegetable accompaniment to Christmas dinner for the past six years(!) as we love it so much the pine nuts and sprouts can be prepared the day before (or prepared and frozen) making it a really quick and easy veg dish that doesn’t need to be overly worried about on the day.

Brussels Sprouts in Pine Nut Butter Recipe

Ingredients (serves 8)

50g pine nuts
40g butter
Lemon, finely grated zest
Nutmeg, small amount grated
1.1kg Brussels sprouts
200g pancetta (optional)


Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan for 2 – 3 minutes until golden and allow to cool. Mix the butter and lemon zest in a bowl. Add the pine nuts and nutmeg and season with freshly ground black pepper. Mix everything together, spoon on to a piece of greaseproof paper and wrap tightly. Freeze for up to a month.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the sprouts. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 – 7 minutes. Drain well, return to the pan, add the pine nut butter and toss to coat.

Optional: fry the pancetta and add to the mixture.

If you find your sprouts often taste bitter there are a couple of things you can do that will help to reduce this…

If you’re growing your own, avoid picking them until they’ve gone through a few frosts. Frost concentrates the sugars making them a bit sweeter. Also overcooking them can make them bitter, so slicing them in half (which also releases some of the acidic compounds they contain) will help them cook a bit quicker too.

Do you have a favourite sprout recipe for Christmas time?

Food & Drink

Recipe: Chocolate Courgette Cake

October 15, 2011
Chocolate Courgette Cake Recipe

Credit: photo credit: Wurz via photopin cc

The original recipe for this chocolate courgette cake came from the BBC Good Food but feeling impatient and not having all the ingredients in the press, it’s been adapted (and worked).

Today’s cake baking was saved for school home time knowing how much the girls like to help. Today our youngest came running in the door to see what I was up to and immediately put on her apron full of delight at the prospect of helping mum … the delight was short-lived and the smile quickly turned into a frown…

She spotted the courgette that was waiting to be fed to the grater in the food processor “ahh no – we’re not putting THAT in a chocolate cake!!” She loves cracking eggs and sieving flour however, so was persuaded to stay and give it a go. A few hours later when her big sister returned home she excitedly dragged her into the kitchen … “you have to try the chocolate cake – it has courgettes in and its DELICIOUS!”

She’s right, so here it is…

Chocolate Courgette Cake Recipe

Cake Ingredients (my version)

350g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp mixed spice
175ml olive oil
375g caster sugar
3 free range eggs
a few drops of vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
500g grated courgettes
140g roasted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

Ingredients For the Chocolate Fudge Icing

100g dark chocolate 70%
75ml evaporated milk
75g granulated sugar
40g butter
few drops vanilla extract

Cake Method

Heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 24cm deep cake tin.

1. Place the flour, cocoa powder, mixed spice and salt into a large bowl and combine.
2. In another bowl combine the sugar, eggs, olive oil, vanilla extract and grated courgette.
3. Mix the dry and wet mixture until almost combined then add the pistachio nuts.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for approx 50 min’s (use a skewer to ensure its cooked)
5. Cool in the cake tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and cooling.

Chocolate Courgette (zucchini) Cake Recipe

Chocolate Fudge Icing Method

Put the sugar and evaporated milk into a heavy based saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil then simmer without stirring for 6 min’s.

Remove from the heat, add the broken up chocolate pieces and once fully incorporated, stir in the butter and vanilla extract, stirring until smooth. Pour into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and once cool place in the fridge to thicken.

Spread the chocolate fudge over the cake and enjoy!

Have you tried eating vegetables in your cakes? If so, what’s your favourite?


Food & Drink

Dee’s (not so secret now) very easy chocolate fudge cake recipe

May 30, 2011


8″ and 10″ chocolate cakes stacked

We had great excitement in the house this weekend with an 8th birthday party yesterday. Being slightly distracted when our youngest was writing out her party invitations it was only after she’d handed them out that I discovered she’d written 40 (silly mummy, lesson learned).

Even allowing for some of her guests not turning up that still meant a big cake was in order. Thankfully on the day the sun was shining and the bouncy castle and a football kept them all entertained outside.


Several different cake mixes


When I was a full time mum I used to make cakes for friends and family – just for fun wedding, birthday or special occasion cakes. The house picture was Mr G’s 40th cake.. a near replica of our house which has been an ongoing renovation project for the past 10 years. It was a mixture of chocolate, Madeira, chocolate biscuit and gingerbread and lots of fun to make.

This weekend the small one’s request was for a triple decker chocolate cake. We compromised with a gooey double decker and now I’m not making nearly as many cakes as I used to, am sharing one of my recipes below…

Gingerbread House (filled with sweets)

For a 10″ round chocolate cake baked in a deep cake tin you’ll need the following ingredients at room temperature:

450g unsalted butter
450g caster sugar, sieved
8 medium free range eggs
450g self raising flour, sieved
4 tblsp warm water
4 tblsp cocoa mixed with 4 tblsp warm water

Oven temperature 160oC, cooking time 75 mins (or thereabouts).

As the quantity of ingredients is quite large to fit into the food processor bowl, I whiz up the butter and sugar in the processor first until mixed, then add the rest of the ingredients in no particular order, stopping the mix now and again to incorporate with a spatula.

Grease and line a deep cake tin, pour in the smooth mixture then bake, testing with a skewer towards the end. Once the cake’s out of the oven, leave for a few minutes to cool before turning out onto a rack.

When I’m cutting cakes into different shapes, once cooled I wrap them up in tin foil and freeze them. This makes them easier to cut into unusual shapes and decorate without getting cake crumbs everywhere.


Chocolate Cake covered with fondant icing

For enough chocolate fudge to fill and cover the 10″ cake the ingredients are:

185g granulated sugar
100g unsalted butter
250g Cocoa Chocolate 70%
185g evaporate milk
2-5 drops vanilla essence

Combine the sugar and evaporated milk in a heavy saucepan. Place the pan over low heat and allow the sugar to dissolve, stirring frequently. When all the granules of sugar have melted, bring the mixture to the boil and simmer gently for 6 minutes without stirring.


Madeira Cake covered with fondant icing

Take the pan off the heat, stir in the chocolate pieces and keep stirring until the chocolate has melted. Finally stir in the butter and vanilla essence.

Transfer to a bowl, cool then cover with clingfilm and chill for a couple of hours until it’s thickened.

All that’s left to do then is to spread it on and get gooey! Enjoy 🙂


Cancelled party plans and big birthday cakes

November 28, 2010

Birthday CakeWe’re snowed in. Again.

It doesn’t seem that long ago we were here before – holed up for four days before we saw human life.

However, back in January when we had to abandon our car and get a lift home in a tractor, we had a house full of Christmas food and sherry.

This time we have a house full of 12yr old boy’s party food….. so lots of crisps, sweets, fizzy drink and pizza’s.  And not forgetting the cake. A cake big enough for 12 hungry 12 year old boys that were supposed to arrive here yesterday for an afternoon of Wii Guitar Hero games.

Our garden after just 3 hrs of snow

For safety reasons, and to take the pressure off the other parents, we made the decision to break our son’s heart and cancel his party yesterday. He’d been talking of nothing else for most of last week (other than the new mobile ‘phone he’s hoping to get for his birthday).

Instead we had a family party. Just the five of us.  We sang and rocked, played Monopoly (well the card version as half the adult one was missing), ate all the Cadbury’s Heroes and stuffed our faces with pizza. We sledged, drank hot chocolate and fizzy pop, lit the fire and played Mario Cart.

The girls had great fun and made a smaller cake with all the leftovers for cutting and candle blowing out after dinner too.

We’re saving the big cake for Tuesday, the actual day of the birthday, just in case the roads are cleared and we can invite some of his pals up to share it on the day. If not we’re re-scheduling the party for a couple of weeks time (we had to give him a glimmer of something to cheer him up).

24hrs later – View from our sitting room

So I’ll be making another cake for candle blowing and belated birthday singing. This time it’ll be a bit smaller so that I’m not tempted to eat it….

…..I’m really not holding out much hope for my Christmas party outfit this year.