Feeding a cold (with lentils)

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I write this swaddled in a blanket, trying to get over a cold which my loving husband passed on to me last week. It is taking its sweet time to leave. I’ve tried nudging it with Night nurse*, smothering it with sleep and Sudafed*,  and now I’m going to flush it out with food – chicken soup, stews, all the good, warm, autumnal stuff.

*Other cold/flu medicines are available.

One of my recent favourites that might help to do the trick is a kind of lentil stew with tomatoes, mustard, garlic and thyme. It’s from a book the OH and I are a little obsessed with at the moment: A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones. All vegetarian/vegan dishes, all amazing. There will be more of her recipes on this blog soon.

I admit, lentils don’t tend to get people excited, but these are blinking tasty – I’ll let the photo’s convince you…

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Garlic & thyme lentils with roasted tomatoes, breadcrumbs, and mustard cream 

lightly adapted from A Modern Way to Cook

Ingredients

For the lentils:

300g green/puy lentils

4 cloves garlic

1 tomato

a few sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

1 vegetable stock cube

Glug of oil and splash of red wine vinegar (optional)

For the tomatoes:

400g cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

olive/rapeseed oil

2-3 slices wholemeal bread, blitzed into crumbs

small bunch fresh thyme (or equivalent dried)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

For the mustard cream:

2 tsp english mustard (or to taste)

100g cream cheese

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1. Preheat the oven to 220C and boil a kettle of water.

2. Put the lentils in a large pan with the tomato, the 4 cloves of garlic (unpeeled), the bay leaves, and the sprigs of thyme. Dissolve the stock cube in 1 litre of boiling water and pour over the lentils. Bring the pan back to the boil, then reduce to a medium heat and simmer gently for 25-30 mins, until the lentils are tender and most of the water has evaporated.

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3. Whilst the lentils are cooking, put the cherry tomatoes on a roasting tray – cut side up. Drizzle over some oil, sprinkle over the lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. Put in the oven and roast for around 15 minutes.

4. Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, put the breadcrumbs on another roasting tray with the thyme leaves and the chopped garlic clove. Drizzle over some more oil and put in the oven with the tomatoes for a further five minutes.

5. Meanwhile, mix the mustard with the cream cheese and set aside.

6. When the lentils are cooked, scoop out the tomato, the garlic, and the bay leaves. Discard the bay leaves and put the tomato into a small bowl. Pop the garlic cloves out of their skins and mash into the tomato to create a rough paste, before stirring this back into the lentils. Check the lentils and add a glug of oil and a splash of red wine vinegar to the mixture, and extra seasoning if desired.

To serve: Ladle the lentils into a bowl and spoon over some of the mustard cream. Scatter over the roasted tomatoes and the breadcrumbs, and get cosy…

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Hopefully this will get my cold moving – wish me luck!

Bake-off Wednesdays: The Final!

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So, it’s the big one. Only 3 people left – who’s going to win? My money’s on Richard…

Part of me is sad it’s the end of my bake-off challenges, I’ve learned some new techniques and have some new recipes to add to my repertoire which is great. The other part of me is happy to get back to a life that doesn’t involve baking and eating baked goods every week! I’m a bit baked-out, and feel like I need to eat better for a while  – there’s only so many times you can foist your cakes/tarts etc on friends and family over 10 weeks (maybe I don’t have enough friends?!).

Anyway, as well as it being the final, it is also my 20th post on this blog – that calls for a celebration cake right?

I went back to my comfort-zone this week with cake, but jazzed it up to try and make it final-worthy… and came up with:

Fig & Almond Mini-cakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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I love figs and when I spotted a punnet of big juicy ones in the supermarket I pounced. I looked for fig cakes on pinterest and found lots of delicious-sounding ones, but not so many worthy of presenting to Mary or Paul – they had more of a rustic look, which is absolutely fine with me, but I was trying to go for a more polished look for the final.

I found my inspiration in this beautiful cake from dolly+oatmeal which is fig and hazelnut. It’s dairy free & gluten free so worth a look if that interests you, but I decided to change it a bit so I could use ingredients I either already have in the kitchen, or would use on a regular basis.

I used an almond cake recipe from Happy Home Baking, as I think fig and almond are a tasty combination. It makes one 22cm cake, but I used cookie cutters to make it into four layered cakes. I then filled it with cream cheese frosting and the fig compote from dolly+oatmeal, covered it in cream cheese frosting, and decorated with fresh figs and toasted caramelised almonds.

I really liked this cake – it has a great flavour to it, the sponge is really moist, and when made into mini cakes it works for dessert as well as afternoon tea. You could even go smaller with the cookie cutters and make them into sweet canapés 🙂

Mary and Paul would probably still think it’s not refined enough in the looks department, but I think it’s pretty good!

Recipe below:

Fig & Almond Mini-cakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients (makes one 8″ cake or approx. 4 mini filled sponges)

160g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and left to soften (keep 50g for frosting)

140g caster sugar

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

100g ground almonds

 40g self-raising flour

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon amaretto liquer or vanilla extract (optional)

approx. 4 figs, roughly chopped, plus 1 or 2 extra for decoration

1 tablespoon maple syrup

juice of half a lemon

150g cream cheese

50g icing sugar

a handful of flaked almonds & a sprinkle of brown sugar (optional decoration)

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Grease a 22cm springform cake tin and set aside.

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Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer or by hand. Beat in the eggs, add the ground almonds, flour, milk, and amaretto or vanilla extract (if you wish), and beat until light and fluffy. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and spread the batter evenly. Bake for 30-35mins, or until the sponge just springs back when pressed, or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool for 5 minutes, then release from the tin. Run a knife around the bottom plate of the tin,  then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool.

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Whilst the cake is cooling, make the fig compote. Put the chopped figs, maple syrup and lemon juice in a saucepan. Simmer over a medium flame and stir until the figs soften and release their juices. Cook for about 15-20mins, letting the figs fall apart and the compote thicken. Take off the heat and let cool.

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Whilst the fig compote is cooling, make the cream cheese frosting and cut out the mini-cakes. Beat the butter until really soft, then add the icing sugar, cream cheese and an optional teaspoon of amaretto or vanilla extract, and continue to beat until smooth. Cut circles out of your almond sponge using a cookie cutter (mine was 2 1/4 in). Toast your flaked almonds with a sprinkle of brown sugar (if using).

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Assemble your cakes – spread some frosting over the bottom layer, top with a blob of fig compote, and sandwich. Use a palette knife or spatula to cover your cake in cream cheese frosting, then decorate with the fresh figs and caramelised almonds.

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I’m excited to use figs in lots of recipes this season, but this is a pretty tasty one to start off with!

What are your favourite recipes using figs?

Enjoy the final…