It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted on my blog – the immediacy of Instagram has made me lazy. But since I recently put up a picture of my rhubarb crumble cake, a few people have been asking for the recipe. So here it is…

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Makes 1 x 20cm cake (serves 6-8) 
For the crumble
50g unsalted butter, softened
80g plain flour
30g demerara sugar
1 tbsp porridge oats
2 tbsp flaked almonds

For the rhubarb
500g rhubarb (if you have a little more, or a little less, it still works fine)
2 tbsp caster sugar

For the cake
85g unsalted butter, softened
85g caster sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
85g self-raising flour
30g ground almonds
A few drops of milk

1 Set the oven to 180C fan, and grease and flour a 20cm cake tin.

2 Make the crumble by putting all the ingredients, except the flaked almonds, in a bowl and rubbing with your fingertips until the texture of breadcrumbs. Put aside.

3 Slice the rhubarb into 1cm chunks, put in a wide bowl or on a plate and sprinkle over the sugar. Put aside.

4 To make the cake, beat the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until it’s pale and creamy. (It’s well worth having the butter pretty soft for this, as it makes it much easier to cream and lessens the possibility of it splitting when the eggs are added.)

5 In a separate bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Add a little at a time to the butter and sugar and beat until it’s all well combined. (If it starts to split, add a small spoonful of flour – but, to be honest, I find if it splits a little, once all the flour is added, it still comes together fine.)

6 Sift the flour into the wet mixture, then add the ground almonds and gently combine with a metal spoon. If it feels a little stiff, add a few drops of milk – and I mean drops! It should be a reluctant dropping consistency.

7 Scrape the batter into the cake tin and smooth the top. Pile the rhubarb on top of the batter, making sure it’s covered evenly, then sprinkle the crumble topping over the rhubarb, again making sure it’s evenly covered.

8 Put in the oven for about 35 minutes, then scatter the flaked almonds over the top and put back in the oven for another 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out of the centre of the cake clean.

9 Cool the cake completely before removing from the tin. In fact, this is a great cake to make ahead of time, as it’s even better the day after baking.

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A Sunday pig-out

April 17, 2011

Being a predominantly Muslim country, Turkey doesn’t have a great deal of pork available. And I do love my pork. So when I’m back in France or England, I tend to eat a lot of it. After all, there really is nothing like a deliciously spiced saucisson in France, or a plate of crispy bacon in Britain.

My stay in London has been quite long this time, and I realised today that it’s only two weeks until I head back to Istanbul. Which, of course, I’m really excited about – but, what was the first thing I thought when I realised my UK trip was close to an end? Pork!

So, today, when I said I’d cook Sunday lunch for Lene, my London host (landlady?), and her family, I knew exactly what was going to be on the menu.

Lene is as much into her cooking as I am, and has a fine collection of cookery books. Including a lovely set of Elizabeth David classics. Among which I found a recipe for roast pork with fennel – in her book called Italian Food. But, of course, being a bit of a food fiddler, I couldn’t just leave it at that, and decided to add garlic, rosemary and paprika to the rolled shoulder stuffing.

On the side, I kept to the fennel theme, and made a fennel and potato bake.

And for some extra veggie-ness, some simple steamed chantenay carrots and English peas – with plenty of mint and butter, of course.

And for pud? One of my faves – Dan Lepard’s saffron peach cake, with loads of thick whipped cream.

And now the sofa beckons…

Well, I have packed, moved, cleaned and had a little cry. And now I am homeless. Homeless, but very excited about what the future holds.

However, I do feel like I need some time to get both my mental and physical energy levels back up again, so I’m going to give myself a bit of a break from blogging.

Luckily, my little sister (whose spare room I’m kipping in at the moment) has a beautiful, big, well-equipped kitchen, so I’m sure I won’t be able to resist for too long the temptation to roll up my sleeves and grab a wooden spoon.

In the meantime, appropriately for the mood I’m currently in for reminiscing, I thought I’d have a look back at what I’ve written so far on And The Cupboard Was Bare, and remind both you and myself of some of my favourite posts.

One of the first dishes I wrote about – an anchovy and cherry tomato risotto – was a perfect example of the philosophy of this blog… that it’s so easy to make a tasty meal out of very ordinary ingredients that are sitting around in your cupboard and fridge.

Another recipe of mine that came about thanks to some random ingredients was one of my most successful cakes – a pear, almond and vanilla sponge. I’ve made this many times since my original post, and it just seems to get better and better.

The vanilla for this cake came from one of my many trips to Istanbul – which, of course, can’t be missed from this mini round-up of blog posts.

As well as vanilla, the most regular purchase of mine from Istanbul’s Spice Market is pul biber, a red pepper spice that comes in flakes or paste, and in varying degrees of saltiness and heat.

I have discovered innumerable uses for this unusual and tasty spice, from tomato and cauliflower soup to carrot and sesame guacomole and it has definitely become a store-cupboard essential for me.

Unfortunately, not all my foodie purchases in Istanbul have been as successful as pul biber, as I realised when I was, um, ‘persuaded’ to buy something that was described to me as lemon salt. It turned out to be little more than citric acid. As determined as I was not to waste the stuff, I couldn’t find any good use for it, so in the bin it went.

One of my most avid readers and commenters is my mum (thanks Mum!). And it really is because of her that I’m so passionate about food and cooking. She is a great cook herself, and from a very early age, taught me to eat and cook well – which is why the above photograph of my sister and me eating artichokes in about 1973 is such a treasure to me.

But I don’t only have photos to remind me of my foodie childhood – I also have a number of kitchen utensils that used to belong to my mum to bring back memories.

From an ancient Tala measuring cone to an equally well-used and well-loved chicken brick, these are my ‘madeleines’ – the things that instantly bring back a memory of a certain time or place.

And soon they will be providing me with a set of very different memories, when they are transported to my new kitchen – and my new life – in Istanbul.

An Indian supper

February 14, 2010

I was heading off to a birthday party in west London last night. Rather rashly, I offered to contribute a pudding to the Indian-themed meal, and after a glance through a cookery book called simply Indian Cookery by Dharamjit Singh (one of my mum’s 1970s staple recipe books, which has been passed on to me), I decided on what I thought was a very straightforward dish – gajjar karrah, or carrot halva.

The list of ingredients was short and basic, and the method simple, so off I set, cooking vast amounts of grated carrot in several pints of milk. Boil until reduced to a quarter of the original volume, Dharamjit instructed.

What he didn’t tell me was that to reduce that amount of liquid would take about three hours! A fact I didn’t realise until an hour and a half into the boiling, when the milk had reduced by barely half. Oh well, I didn’t have anything else to do with my Saturday afternoon.

Luckily, I’d started early enough to finish the halva in time to catch my train – and the guests at the party thought it tasted very authentic. Phew…

On Friday, feeling like I was coming down with a bit of a cold, I bought three big, fat navel oranges. Luckily, the cold didn’t materialise, so I decided the oranges deserved a fate slightly more interesting than a glass of juice. Turning to my favourite book for cakes, Leith’s Baking Bible, I found a recipe for orange buns. And, as we’re now well and truly on the slippery slope to Christmas, I decided to spice them up a bit with a pinch of ground cardamom.

The recipe says these buns freeze well (before icing), but I think I’ll be taking them into work tomorrow. After all, part of the pleasure of cooking is seeing others enjoy the fruits of your labour!