lookitcookit
lookitcookit
The armchair kitchen
Provocative thoughts about food - with twice-weekly ideas from my London kitchen
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lookitcookit · 2 days ago
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Not an omelette
For some reason I dislike omelettes. This has the same ingredients, but is cooked in the oven so it is light and puffy.
Here is what you need for a Cheese and Onion 'no pastry flan' for two people:
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2 eggs, salt and pepper, 55g/2oz grated cheddar, few tablespoons chopped fried onion, 2 rounded tbsps mascarpone cheese. Mix everything together well.
Pour into a small buttered, loose-bottomed, round tin + a couple of muffin tins and cook at 180C/360F for about 15 mins.
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Continue cooking for a few more minutes if it's not set in the middle.
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It should rise a bit like a souffle, but will fall again as you serve it. You may notice (from the top picture) that I have some asparagus on the side. This is because it is May and the season for English asparagus, which is just the best.
One last note: the fried onions. When I am cooking a large quantity, I save some in a small pot and freeze them. So when a need a few for a dish like this they are ready to defrost in half a minute.
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lookitcookit · 5 days ago
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English trifle
Here below is what it used to look like - filled with jelly and tiny coloured dots called 'hundreds and thousands'.
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Now (and above in individual portions) is my version of this wonderful layered dessert.
It’s made from sponge finger biscuits soaked in sherry, home made custard, fresh berries and whipped cream. That’s it.
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Do look at my 5- minute You Tube video to see the details.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo6kFrc1H6heHRebyDU5hvA
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lookitcookit · 9 days ago
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Apples
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Those were just some stylish pictures: now for something to eat!
Danish Apple Pudding
This is a really quick and easy pudding, from a recipe by Sarah Mann-Yeager.
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I made half her recipe which was designed to serve four, so here are the ingredients for two:
2 medium size Bramley apples, peeled and cut into pieces, 60g melted unsalted butter, 60g ground almonds, 45g sugar (25g = 1oz) and 2 large eggs. (I had an extra white which I threw in as well, but don’t worry if you don’t have one).
First cook the apples, either on the hob with a few tablespoons of water and 20g sugar, or in the microwave, with no water, for about 3 minutes. Either way they should be just soft. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl till stiff, put on a plate. Whisk the yolks with the rest of the sugar, adding the melted butter. Fold it all together and then fold in the ground almonds. Have ready a buttered ovenproof dish and spoon in some of the almond mixture, followed by the apple pieces, spread out, then the rest of the pudding mixture.
Bake at 170C, 350F for about 35-40 mins. The top will be lightly brown but check with a cocktail stick to see that the centre of the pudding is not runny. Serve with chilled single cream.
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lookitcookit · 12 days ago
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Gifts - what to take
Flowers?
Lilies are tricky, some people hate the smell.
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Roses? on a hot day they can die quickly
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But here’s a trick: peel off the dead petals, press each one from the dead side and surprise - it turns into a velvety looking magic. Float the petals in water and they will brighten your room for several days.
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Now back to the bread and cheese picture, above. We are invited out to tea - the first time for many, many months. What should I take? Our friends love French cheese, so here is a little arrangement of Camembert with a few home made bread rolls and a butter pyramid. This is made with something I used to play with in the 1970s, a little tool I have had for ever.
Here’s another picture of it. Have fun!
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lookitcookit · 16 days ago
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Chelsea Buns
Want to know exactly how to make them? See my latest video on Kitchen Games:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMeKcpklS5U
No mysteries, just taking you through the steps to get them as good as you can buy.
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lookitcookit · 19 days ago
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Just an artichoke
Here it is whole, and then trimmed and cooked in salted boiling water for about 35-40 minutes. (I've cut off the points because they are spiky and it's only the base of each leaf that is eaten.)
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It's done when a knife pressed into the base indicates that it is soft enough for the leaves to come away easily.
Drain it well and leave to cool. Then carefully open it out and remove the very tough inner whiteish leaves. Ease it open still further and you will see the hairy part. Take a sharp knife and remove these carefully from the 'choke' - take care, this is the tastiest bit.
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Now it's ready to eat. Since this is a very large one, I have cut it in half and removed any stray, spiky white leaves from the centre. Gently pull out each leaf and dip the thick base part into the sauce.
It's served with a mustardy vinaigrette: olive oil, wine vinegar, seasoning and a big teaspoon of French mustard. Or, alternatively eat it hot with a pot of melted butter. Both of these are poured into the centre.
One other bit of information for those who have never eaten these before: it's messy because you are eating with your fingers. Have ready paper towels, a fabric napkin, or if you are planning an elegant dinner party (which I am sure you are not) some finger bowls filled with water!
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lookitcookit · 23 days ago
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Cheese croquettes
M & S do pretty good bites which seem to me like the old fashioned cheese croquettes - bullet shaped, oven cooked, made with mashed potato and cheddar cheese. As I was eating them - more than a snack, not quite a meal - I was wondering if I could make some.
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The picture at the top is my version:
A very large potato was cut into dice and boiled till the pieces were soft.The drained potato pieces were then mashed with a large knob of unsalted butter and a few tablespoons of milk. I can’t remember the exact quantity, but just enough to make a creamy mixture that is not too soft. To that I added about 50g/2oz grated extra mature cheddar cheese and a bit of seasoning. I rolled the mixture into balls and left them to chill in the fridge for an hour or so. All this is what I guessed was similar to the the bought ones.
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I dipped the balls into a whisked egg and then tossed them in crumbs. The ones I used were matzo meal, but you could use panko.
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Then I shallow fried them in a little hot olive oil for a few minutes, till they were brown and crisp on each side.
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M & S says that 6 of theirs serves 6 - but that must be as a hot canape with drinks. I made 9 little balls for a light meal for 2.
It was well worth the experiment. My plate included roast peppers and fresh asparagus.
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lookitcookit · 26 days ago
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Butter bean soup
Butter beans are amazing little nuggets: shiny and hard when dried, they can be transformed into the most incredibly smooth soup.
Here's how you do it:
Start by soaking the beans overnight in a bowl filled to the top with water.
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Drain them and put them into a saucepan, covered with fresh water, with no salt. Bring to the boil and skim off the foam which will come to the top.
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Simmer for about 45 minutes. Pour the cooked beans through a strainer back into the bowl, reserving the liquid. When the beans have cooled, squeeze each one till the skin flips off. This is important.
Then put the peeled beans with the reserved liquid back in the pan. Add two or three sliced carrots and celery sticks and cook for a further 30 minutes until everything is soft.
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Pour the mixture (see the bowl in front) into a liquidizer and buzz it up for at least five minutes. It will take that long to make a really smooth soup.
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If it is very thick, pour in some chicken or vegetable stock. (the thinner one is at the back of this picture. The front one has some of the chopped vegetables which I reserved to add for decoration.)
Serve hot with some melba toast and butter.
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lookitcookit · a month ago
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Bread rolls
Of course it’s possible to buy such rolls in a bakery or supermarket. There’s nothing like doing without something for a while, to make you really want it. So it was with bread. After the week of Passover when we only ate unleavened matzah and nothing at all containing wheat or flour, I was looking forward to some nice chewy, soft rolls.
I’m lucky to have a dough-proving setting in my oven so one just needs to follow the recipe on the back of a packet of strong flour, and after kneading for about ten minutes, put the dough into the oven for about 45 mins to an hour. It's done when it has doubled in size.
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Then comes the next stage, which is called knocking back. This just means kneading it again, before forming it into neat round balls. I cut a few lines in the top of each roll.
Then after baking for about 15-20 minutes in a hot oven, they are done.
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I served them with the last of my whole, creamy Dutch gouda cheese with a bit of celery and an apple on the side.
Of course we didn’t eat them all at once, so they are there, in the freezer, to take on a picnic next time we go out in the sunshine.
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lookitcookit · a month ago
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Hot or 'cole' slaw?
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These are the ingredients for two vegetable dishes: below is traditional Coleslaw - made from white cabbage, grated carrot and spring onions. Above are identical vegetables, made into a hot dish, with the addition of noodles.
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The first one is a traditional cold salad, Coleslaw, which you can buy on any deli counter. But the ready-made version is heavy on the mayonnaise and often oversweetened.
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All you need to do is grate the cabbage and the carrot (squeeze this dry in some paper towels) and then mix to taste with good mayonnaise and seasoning. Now for the hot dish:
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The stir fried vegetables, above, uses the same cabbage, carrot and spring onion, fried, but has noodles added.
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Cook the vegetables in oil, stirring frequently for about ten minutes until they are cooked but still slightly crisp. Season well. Meanwhile boil the noodles for 4 minutes, drain well and and then add to the frying pan, stirring for another minute or so. Shake over a large dollop of soy sauce and serve hot from the pan.
This makes a great hot accompaniment to some ready-bought spring rolls as in the top picture. They come in a pack, already cooked, ready to brown in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. They are vegetarian and vegan. If you use an olive oil dressing instead of mayonnaise in the coleslaw that will be vegan too.
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lookitcookit · a month ago
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Red and purple
This is an apple - not a real one but a painting in my study (done by me about 30 years ago).
I still have a fondness for the colours red and purple and have used them frequently on my blog.
Here is one from a while ago, about how cooking red cabbage with apples makes the apple pieces change colour.
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You can see the post I wrote about it here.
Then here is another thing I like: beetroot with plain yogurt, simply swirled with a cocktail stick to make a pretty pattern.
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Now the two together - part of my lunch today.
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Lastly, a bit more 'magic' making eggs change colour by soaking in juice from cooked beetroot or purple cabbage
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lookitcookit · a month ago
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Growing pots
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These are not what you think. I am not growing parsley or a spring onion in pots of soil. This is a fun way of serving mushroom pâté.
The mixture is very simple: fried onions and mushrooms, with the addition of some chopped parsley, ground almonds and seasoning.
Here are the quantities: 2 tbsp olive oil for frying, 2 onions chopped, 350g/12oz mushrooms chopped, 225g/8oz ground almonds, seasoning and a handful of chopped parsley. Makes about 6 small pots.
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When the mushrooms and onions are cooked - slowly, don’t rush it, do them one at a time for about ten minutes - buzz them up in a food processor with the other ingredients and season with salt and pepper.
The pâté is good served with drinks when spread on crackers or thin toast.
The fun presentation of a ‘growing plant’ is easy. Perhaps the best thing would be a sprig of rosemary because it stands up straight, but I’ve just used herbs you are more likely to have at home.
Worth a try? I hope so. A few of my friends have said they use this recipe over and over again. By the way, it is vegan and vegetarian too.
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lookitcookit · a month ago
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Roast beef .... and remains
A strange statistic came up this week: the French eat about 90kg of meat, per person per year. That’s about 225g/ 1/2 lb meat per person per day. We in UK eat slightly less, while the top meat eating countries are USA, Australia and Argentina.
This news came out because the Mayor of Lyon has decided that the free meals being given to children in his city should from now on be meat-free. That has caused much upset - as you might imagine from what some call the 'food capital of France'.
Last week the two of us sat down to a small joint of beef for the first time in months. With no family to share it, I served it hot - and rare - on the first evening, then cold the next and finally with chunks cut up into a kind of Russian salad, otherwise known by the French term Salade de Boeuf - beef salad. The picture at the top shows the plain cold beef with the meat deliciously marbled with fat.
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The last few chunks were cut into small dice, with the addition of a few pieces of chicken breast, but the salade de boeuf was overwhelmingly vegetable: cooked carrots, peas, french and broad beans and potatoes.
You might be interested in how it got to the shape I’m showing here. I keep a plastic container for this purpose (it probably originally contained mushrooms).
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Then I mix everything with a lemony mayonnaise and layer it with the potatoes first, then the vegetables and finally the meat. When it is cold (this one had been in the fridge overnight) I put a flat dish on top and turned it over, so the potato layer was on top. It tasted brilliant. I worked out that my 1.2kg joint would never have served 6 or 7 people when it first came out of the oven, but provided three generous meals for the two of us. Why was this? because of the generous addition of a large amount of vegetables.
So perhaps this is the secret for us or the French: don’t cut out meat altogether, but do serve it with more vegetables or simply alternate vegetarian and meat meals.
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lookitcookit · a month ago
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Almond and cinnamon balls
This is the second of my two posts about Passover baking. Again it’s a gluten-free and dairy-free idea: perfect when you are looking for something sweet to have with tea or coffee.
The mixture is almost the same for both kinds of biscuit. They are soft inside and take about 15 minutes to prepare and the same amount of time to bake.
You can see the whole process on my You Tube video here
It’s called Pair of Shorts No. 2 The title doesn’t refer to clothes of course, but is because the two videos are very quick, in keeping with the ease and speed of what it takes to make them.
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lookitcookit · a month ago
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Coconut pyramids
Before this week's Festival of Passover, I have been baking. Since everything containing flour is forbidden for the week, it’s time to be more inventive, so most cakes and biscuits are based on ground nuts.
These are coconut pyramids: sweet delicacies to have with tea in the long hours between lunch and dinner!
You can see the full details on my You Tube video. Click here for the recipe.
Coming up next: another nut-based treat: almond or cinnamon balls.
All of these are gluten free and dairy free.
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lookitcookit · a month ago
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Plums and custard
We're in the middle of March, so there is no sunny windowsill to ripen the plums.
(You can just see the raindrops on the window).
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These out-of-season plums come from a local store in Maida Vale, London. It is a cause of wonder to me that in winter we can still get a wonderful array of produce from around the world . If you look carefully at the picture below you will see - among the more expected winter fruit of apples, oranges, chestnuts and pineapple - cherries, strawberries, donut peaches, limes, fennel, asparagus, avocados and sweet potatoes.
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The pot of stewed fruit at the top is just one plum. They ripen a few at a time! Custard can either be home made or bought. Or just add cream or thick yogurt.
Enjoy the abundance!
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lookitcookit · 2 months ago
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Gravlax
Before sushi came along, the British were wary of raw fish. Yet for some time, the more adventurous have been enjoying gravlax: raw, cured salmon.
This is the latest video on my You Tube channel, Kitchen Games, and you can find it here.
Click on the link and you will see it in detail.
It’s a short one - about 5 mins, with the actual preparation taking half that time - but there is something to know, and that is that you need to start the curing 3 days in advance.
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When we start inviting a friend to our home, this might be a good thing to start with. A glass of chilled Prosecco and slices of delicious gravlax with zenapsauce.
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For those of you who are familiar with the concept, here is the exact recipe.
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lookitcookit · 2 months ago
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A vegan treat
I got the idea for this from a TV presentation by the great chef Raymond Blanc. He called it a Celebration of Celeriac. He makes several suggestions for how to cook this large white root vegetable, emphasizing the unusal taste and the potential for how to cook it several ways. You can find the details here.
I have chosen to do something simpler. The celeriac is cut into rounds.
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It is then fried till lightly browned with some aromatic herbs: thyme or rosemary, if you have them (I just had parsley). Raymond uses foaming butter for this stage, but olive oil will also be good.
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Then the dish is transferred to the oven and cooked for 20 minutes till the vegetable is no longer hard. Raymond goes on to some more exotic suggestions: making a celeriac puree, or an open glazed tart, both of which would be great. (All details in the link above).
But continuing with my simplified version, I suggest using some cooked savoury rice, which includes finely chopped and fried vegetables like carrot, celery and onion, and spooning this over the cooked celeriac round.
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I’ve made it into a flower by adding a few crisp sugar peas, steamed for about 2 minutes to retain their crunch.
One final idea. Forget about the oil and frying and just poach the celeriac in some vegetable stock, drain and serve in a salad as a starter. For all these ideas I have used a round cutter to make the circular shapes. The pieces you cut off can be cooked (boiled, steamed or microwaved) and are very good in soup.
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lookitcookit · 2 months ago
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Smoked salmon
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Jewish people are very fond of smoked salmon. I think it is something to do with bacon. Not that the two are really similar, but both have an intense savoury-ness that nothing else comes close to. So, since Jews are prohibited from eating bacon, perhaps smoked salmon is an excellent substitute.
Mind you, I would draw the line at snipping up bits of salmon and putting it on pizza, or adding it to a sauce for pasta. Using it in odd ways reminds me of a funny story:
A friend’s son was going for a visit to Italy to stay with a family he had never met before. It was what used to be called ‘an exchange’. No, we weren’t exchanging our children for foreign ones, we were sending them to a different country to experience the language, the food and the surroundings. Wondering what to send as a gift, my friend decided on a whole side of smoked salmon (the equivalent in expense to perhaps, a whole Iberico ham.) The host received it gracefully, but for the whole of the child’s stay, it stayed in the fridge. On the final day, they brought it out and said they were going to serve it at dinner. What they put on the table was a risotto: a pile of beautifully cooked rice with little cubes of smoked salmon added. I was told that this didn’t improve the taste of either the rice or the salmon!
The photos above show inventive ways of serving smoked salmon. The little rolls are great for using up a small amount when you want a few nibbles to go with drinks. The second one is an open sandwich: rye bread, buttered, with a fish shaped insert (using a special ‘dolphin’ cutter). Looks pretty. Tastes good too.
Below is a pile of 'ordinary sandwiches: cheese and tomato cucumber and at the bottom smoked salmon. On white bread, with plenty of butter.
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lookitcookit · 2 months ago
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Apple pie in a box
The dessert in a box was not made by me. It was a present I bought for a friend’s birthday. His wife told me he didn’t really like cake - but loved any dessert with apples: pie, tart, crumble.  But apparently he also enjoyed fruit cake. So the brief was to make a fruit cake, disguised as an apple pie!
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The cake was delivered. We took it to the birthday man, our neighbour four doors away. Two days later, they left a package on our doorstep - a few generous pieces of the pretend pie which we have just shared for tea.
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Not only does it look impressive, it really tastes good. The fruit cake is rich and intensely flavoured with the dried fruits. The faux pastry top is fondant icing.
If you want to try making the cake, here are two possible recipes. Click here for what is called ‘Everday fruit cake’ - the kind you take on a picnic, or here, for one where the mixed dried fruits are soaked in brandy or rum.  This is more like a Christmas cake that would serve about 14 people.
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