Monday, 13 October 2014

I Can Be Happy

Life lately has been...busy. City life can sometimes become overwhelming for this country girl, I start craving the green fields and starry skies of my home village. So after a week of rainy mornings walking to work and tired evenings with hot soup to keep the cold away, me and T caught the train back to the country and spent the weekend in The Forest with my parents at their house.

We stayed up late on Friday night talking and drinking, my brother left for Spain on the Saturday morning so it was wonderful to spend some quality time all together.
I woke early in the morning, T slept gently next to me as I lay in my old room, the glow in the dark stars still covering the ceiling. I could hear mum making coffee downstairs so slid out of the bed as quietly as I could, pulled on an old jumper and tiptoed into the kitchen.
After the first pot of coffee had been drunk dad had woken up and put on another pot. We chatted quietly, easing ourselves into the pale morning, letting the sun warm up before me and mum took the doggies for a long walk. We ambled up and over muddy fields, down through streams and kicked our way through the pretty fallen leaves. Autumn is my favourite time of year and I felt so happy being completely immersed in it. 
My skin felt drenched in winter sunlight, my eyes teary and nose red from the cold air. I breathed it in as deep as I could, great big gulps of damp, Auntumn air that filled my lungs and tasted of wet earth.

When we returned home almost two hours later I woke T with coffee and the promise of a pub lunch. I showered quickly, scrubbing the dirt from my skin and beneath my finger nails, noticing that this made me sad, like I was somehow washing away the last traces of magic.
Lunch was eaten in a tiny little pub with sloping walls and wonky floors. We ate big plates of bread and olives, followed by alcohol and cigarettes.
I baked cake in the afternoon, whilst my parents dozed and T read the paper. The rain was falling hard but baking in the warm kitchen transported me away from the wind and the wet. T and I had had just enough time to pick the last of the raspberries and blackberries from the garden, and I stirred them into the sweet vanilla batter along with chocolate and hazelnuts. 
 T and I caught the train back late Saturday night, my head felt fuzzy and tired, my limbs were heavy and I had a sadness that settled over me like a fine layer of dust. I am always sad to leave The Forest. 
Yet since being back in our little nest I have cheered up and wanted to share with you the cake I baked on the weekend. It's a sweet little cake, so simple and can be adapted for whatever fruit or berries you may have found. I made quite a large, deep cake, about a 7" deep, loose bottomed cake pan. But you can always half the recipe for a smaller cake.

For the basic Sponge you'll need...

12 oz Plain flour
5 oz Vegan butter
4 oz Golden caster sugar
5 tsp Baking powder 
1/2 Pint of plant milk
2 tbsp Maple syrup
Splash of vanilla extract
1 tsp Lemon zest
Small pinch of salt

For the Crumble topping you'll need...

1 oz Vegan butter
2 oz Plain flour
Sugar to taste
Handful of bashed hazelnuts 

The yummy bits...

I added a big handful of freshly picked blackberries and raspberries into the sponge batter, along with some chopped dark chocolate (about 60g...would have been 100g bar but some of it got, um, eaten.)

So firstly, use your favourite wooden spoon to cream the sugar and vegan butter together along with the syrup.
Then add in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
Sift the flour into another bowl along with the salt and baking powder.
Now add a little of the milk to the batter, then a little flour, then a little milk, then a little flour...until all the milk and flour have been incorporated and you have a wonderfully smooth batter.
Now add the berries and chocolate and give it a stir, the colours are beautiful!

For the Crumble, use the tips of your fingers to rub the flour into the vegan butter until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Then add in enough sugar so it's as sweet as you like it.
Pop some hazelnuts into a bag or under a tea towel and use a rolling pin to bash them up!
Stir them into the crumble mixture.

Spoon the cake batter into your tin, sprinkling the crumble on top.

Bake at 180 c for about 45 mins to an hour, until a knife comes out almost clean when inserted into the cake. (Mine still had a few crumbs on it as I wanted it to be gooey, perfect with hot custard or coconut cream!)

This cake above was what gave me the inspiration for the one I baked on the weekend. Whilst I was at my parents in September, the end of summer was approaching and the trees in the garden were groaning with plump, shiny red apples. I brought a load of them back with me to Bristol, along with a big bag of blackberries. 
I made a beauty of a cake, Apple, Blackberry and Almond Crumble Cake. 

I made this cake slightly smaller, as it was just for me and T. I used a 6" deep, loose bottomed cake pan.

For the Sponge you'll need...

6 oz Plain flour 
2 oz Golden caster sugar
1 tbsp Maple syrup/Agave syrup
3 tsp Baking powder
2 1/2 oz Apple sauce - I made my own with just 2-3 apples, chopped and stewed with a little water and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon until mushy
1 tbsp Oil - coconut/olive/sunflower
1/4 Pint plant milk
Splash of vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 tsp Lemon zest
1/2 tsp Ground ginger
5 oz Blackberries

For the Crumble you'll need...

1 oz Vegan butter
2 oz Plain flour
1/2 tsp Ground ginger
1 oz Brown sugar - or to taste
Handful flaked almonds

Simply mix the apple sauce with the oil, sugar and syrup.
Then add the vanilla and lemon zest.
In another bowl sift the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger together.
Add a little of the milk, then a little of the flour to the apple mixture and keep adding it little by little until you have a glorious, smooth batter.
Stir in most of the blackberries, leaving a small handful aside.
Peel and core a small apple, then slice it thinly and set aside.
Pour or spoon the mixture into the tin and level the top. Then place a layer of sliced apple on top along with the leftover blackberries. 
Now sprinkle the crumble over the top.

Bake at 180c for about 30 mins, or until a knife comes out mostly clean.

I hope you've enjoyed these two little recipes, simple they are but sometimes it's the simple, homely recipes that are the best. I love strange and wonderful recipes with stranger ingredients and flavours, but sometimes, it's the recipes that I can make whilst chatting to my family and friends in the kitchen that I enjoy the most. The recipes that you can make without having to run out to the shops, the recipes where you know as long as you have vanilla extract in the cupboards and berries in the garden you're good to go. I find that these are the recipes that soothe my soul, ease my worried mind and calm my knotted stomach.

Much love and happy baking! x


Neil Fraser said...

Really enjoyed reading this Millie. Hope to read more soon! Neil

Sabina Westlin said...

Looks delicious Millie!