Crunchy Apple Pudding

Crunchy Apple Pudding 3-2

I couldn’t countenance Sunday lunch without a pudding.  I fully admit there have been times when a quickly whisked together chocolate or butterscotch sauce to pour over good ice cream has been all I could muster but puddings they were nonetheless.  I love all manner of rib sticking, warming treats – after all Sunday lunch only comes around once a week and I will easily go days or the whole week without any other sweet, sticky number for afters.  Golden syrup sponge, lemon (or chocolate) surprise pudding, a fruit crumble, pie or galette – anything that will be delicious and only improved by cold cream or warm custard.

Last Sunday though I had rather gone to town with a main course of braised silverside and many, many vegetables.  So, although I had bought bramleys and had apple crumble with cream firmly, and fondly, in mind a bit of rejigging was in order.

Several years ago I was offered a pudding called Danish Peasant Girl in a Veil.  Seriously, that was the name – I am sure because I had to ask at least four times.  Caroline, who made it, assured me that just because I hadn’t heard of it didn’t mean it wasn’t a real dessert…  It was layers of apple puree, crispy breadcrumbs, whipped cream and grated chocolate and extremely good it was too.  It has sat filed in my memory until now.

I decided to combine the spirit of the Danish girl with an old nursery pudding of dark muscavado ‘melted’ on top of Greek yogurt which in turn covers some fruit.  So here we have it.  A lighter take or a (rather early) summer version of apple crumble with cream.  My husband and children loved it although I think I am the biggest fan.  Next time I am going to make more so I can also have it for breakfast.

Crunchy Apple Pudding 3

Crunchy Apple Pudding

I have given measurements but these are flexible, if your apples weigh 1kg then great, you will have a little more puree just adjust the sugar accordingly.  Likewise use more yogurt if you like, these are just guidelines.

750g bramley apples, cored, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons water

50g breadcrumbs

25g butter

1 heaped tablespoon demerara sugar

Good pinch of salt

1 heaped tablespoon dark muscavado

250g Greek yogurt

Put the apples, sugar and water in a pan and cook slowly until completely broken down.  Taste, you may need a touch more sugar depending on the sharpness of your apples.  Leave to cool.  Meanwhile melt the butter in a frying pan and add the breadcrumbs, sugar and a good pinch of salt.  Mad though it might seem you need the salt to give flavour so the crumbs don’t just taste sweet.  Fry these gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden and crunchy then leave to cool.  Once you have all the components you can assemble your puddings.  Divide the apple between the glasses and top with the yogurt, sprinkle the muscavado between the four glasses and leave it for a few minutes to ‘melt’ then cover with breadcrumbs.  You can do more layers if you like, I am not dextrous enough to do many, neatly and I only want breadcrumbs on the top so they are really crunchy.  This makes enough for 4 glasses but is easily doubled.

Crunchy Apple Pudding 2

Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde_

The vegetables around at this time of year are pretty hard and tough, the rugby players of the vegetable world if you will.  Big bruisers able to withstand adverse conditions and not ones to wilt in the face of a little frost.  On first sight they may seem a little solid and unapproachable – think swedes, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, cabbages and big, floury winter potatoes.  A world away, or certainly a few months, from frilly rocket, pea shoots and delicate herbs.

Whilst summer produce is immediately scoffable and obvious in its delights, some of these winter offerings need a little gentle encouragement, accessories of butter and cream and time so that they too can shine.  The transformation can be astonishing and it is these cosy, reassuring and restoring soups and gratins that we need during the cold months.  Necessary ballast.

Last night I made a gratin with sliced potatoes, a few matchsticks of leftover ham, broccoli and a thick blanket of cheese sauce.  Baked until the top was bubbling and blistered and the broccoli satisfyingly singed, it was absolutely perfect for the coldest night of the year so far.

This is, for me, dream food.  The sort I start thinking about fairly soon after breakfast as I take Tom for a brisk walk up the hill and one of the reasons I push myself on said walks – so I can have seconds.

This soup is just such a warming little number and has a second smack of satisfaction in its frugality.  Caldo Verde is a Portuguese soup rustled up when there wasn’t much on offer and is traditionally just cabbage, potatoes and water with a little garlic.  I’ve taken a liberty by using lovely seasonal kale instead of cabbage and whilst I do add chorizo I stop myself there.  Tempting though it is to use stock rather than water or to add an onion or some herbs, such tinkering would be too great a departure from the original.

I urge you to try this, it makes a fabulous lunch followed by a good hunk of cheese.  Just don’t do what I did which was to burn my mouth in my speedy greed to taste it.

Caldo Verde 2

Caldo Verde

4 tablespoons good olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

750g floury potatoes, diced (I don’t bother peeling them)

150g kale or Cavolo Nero, tear it up and remove big hard stalks

150g chorizo, sliced

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan, add the garlic and then heat gently.  Once the garlic is dancing around the pan but not coloured add the potatoes and a teaspoon of salt, stir and cook for 5 minutes.  Add 1.2 litres of water and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.  Mash about a 1/3 of the potatoes against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon so they break down a bit.  Add the kale and simmer for five minutes.  Meanwhile heat the remaining oil in a pan and fry the chorizo for a couple of minutes then add this to the potatoes and kale along with the fabulous orange oil.  Taste (cautiously) and adjust the seasoning if necessary then serve.  Enough for 4.


Buttermilk Scones


This weekend we had proper blustery, stormy weather.  The sort where you either struggle to walk into the wind or, if you turn around can lean against the wind feeling it almost support you.  I am not so keen on rain but as long as wrapped up well, this chilly, wind howling Wuthering Heights sort of weather is fantastic.  You come home with your hair whipped around your head, tingling ears and a good, healthy, rosy-cheeked glow.  There is something entirely satisfying in this and even more so if a treat awaits you at the end of your walk.

So it was on Saturday afternoon when my little boy and I decided to make scones.  Now I usually think of scones as an outside in the garden, summer tea but I don’t know why.  They take minutes to whip up and are a supremely good treat in front of a cosy fire after an invigorating walk (equally good without the walk too).  Ours were being eaten within an hour of us having the idea and they were great fun to make with my son.  His pride in the finished article means he will not only be keen as mustard to make these again but to perhaps try something new next time to add to his repertoire – win, win.

You may have spotted an error in the whole scone with jam and cream scenario in the top photograph but don’t worry, in the time it took for us to make them, a kind man nipped out and bought clotted cream to accompany the jam on the scones and they were fabulous.

Scones 2


If you want to make these and don’t have any buttermilk to hand just mix 1/3 yogurt with 2/3 milk up to 300ml.  Bear in mind though that buttermilk has a fairly long (fridge) shelf life and is available in all supermarkets.  You can also use it for my seedy soda bread (April 2013) which is just the ticket with soup and very quick to make (no rising).

450g self-raising flour

100g cold butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

85g golden caster sugar

284ml pot buttermilk (make it up to 300ml with milk)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Whizz the flour and butter together until like breadcrumbs, add the salt and sugar and then gently by hand mix in the buttermilk until it all comes together.  Gently form the dough into a ball and roll out until about 5cm thick.  Cut out to whatever size you like and place on a lightly floured baking sheet.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes but check after 12 (if you have made jumbo scones they might need a minute or two more).  This will make 10-12 scones depending on the size you choose.  They are best eaten on the day they are made, which shouldn’t be a problem, but you can reheat the next day if needs be.  Serve with jam and cream (of course!).

Happy New Year!

Christmas salad

I’m not going to tell you what to eat.  There are a lot of suggestions out there right now but really, most of us know that a healthy balance is the optimum choice and diving headlong into the duvet like cosiness of endless cakes, pies and steamed puddings is probably not.

Firstly I am too greedy for total abstinence and secondly I have two children whom I am determinedly hopeful will develop a happy, sensible relationship with food, loving it as much as I do but knowing what is great, good and not so good for them.  Bingeing (Christmas or otherwise) followed by crash dieting wouldn’t be an ideal example for them and terribly unhealthy for me and my husband.

So what is my attempt at the middle line?  During the week my lunches are usually vegetable based soups or huge, sustaining salads full of delicious things and I try to keep well away from any processed sugars or white carbs.  Come the weekend I will relax a bit and particularly as the children are around then, a variety of treats will hit the table.  Alongside all that is fresh, crunchy and good for us there might be a good loaf or some homemade pizzas and I couldn’t imagine Sunday lunch without a proper pudding….

Kale and Lentil soup

This week then I have been tucking into my Christmas salad (December 2013 and pictured top) which, like a puppy, is not just for Christmas but a fabulous, crunchy full of flavour salad and also my Kale, Lentil and Bacon Soup (October 2013, pictured above).  To offer a little balance and prove I am no goody goody, we had Golden Syrup Sponge Puddings (January 2014) at the weekend (perfect treat after a long walk) and I have just made some Flapjacks for the children to tuck into after school.  For these I used my usual recipe (Flapjacks, October 2013) but replaced the oats with some Cranberry and Sunflower seed muesli we had been given;  what a winner, fabulous flapjacks and one less packet gathering dust in the larder.

Lots of new recipes on their way but in the meantime, Happy New Year and only look at the photograph below if you are not currently living on kale and quinoa……

Golden Syrup Sponge