The perfect Saturday afternoon: tea, cake, & politics

IMG_6533 - Copy

Today has been one of those days. It doesn’t matter how good your intentions were yesterday; today, it just didn’t happen. I had loads of plans (reading! note-taking! shopping! tidying!), but in reality I’ve managed to accomplish just one. And that was to make The Ultimate Banana Bread. So it’s not so bad, really.

I have a slight confession here: this is not my recipe. I mean, I’ve tweaked it a little from the original, but in essence it is not mine. However, I don’t feel so bad about using someone else’s recipe, because it is THE BEST. You heard me. It never fails. It makes a beautiful crust, but stays moist and is so moreish. I baked it for some friends I’m seeing tomorrow, but it’s going to be a challenge to keep it that long…

IMG_6547 - Copy

The original recipe can be found here. Usually I substitute half of the caster sugar with soft brown sugar instead (today I used dark brown, because that was all I had), and I cut the quantity of sugar down to 200g instead of 225g. I also add spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger – because every cake is improved by spices. (Maybe not Victoria sponge… though perhaps that’s a challenge I should tackle!)

So my Saturday afternoon consisted of baking cake, listening to Any Questions on Radio 4 (and shouting at the radio – turns out mixing batter is a great way of venting your anger), drinking Earl Grey, eating cake, and making lists for the week ahead. How was yours?

IMG_6551 - Copy

Asian Salmon with Stir-fried Vegetables & Noodles

It’s only Saturday night but this weekend has already been such a long one. Thursday turned out (rather unexpectedly) to be pretty hectic (both work & play – supervisor meetings, student union stuff, and a friend finishing his finals), and on Friday we had planned a whole day punting trip to Islip, a village north of Oxford, which was wonderful but sapped all our energy. Today we took a walk up the canal to Woodstock for the Midsummer Festival, which took most of the afternoon, and by the time we were nearly home I was wilting rather badly. (Separate posts on both these trips to follow over the next couple of days, once I’ve been through the hundreds of photos…) So come this evening, a light and easy dinner was called for. There were a couple of salmon steaks in the fridge, along with some rather tired baby corn, stem broccoli, and half a red pepper. What else could you make than a stir fry?

Image

 

Ingredients (makes enough for 2):

  • 2 salmon steaks
  • Half a red pepper
  • Half a pack each of baby corn and stem broccoli (although any veg you have lying around will do)
  • Noodles
  • A couple of cloves of garlic (one finely chopped and one sliced)
  • Ginger
  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Honey
  • Chinese fivespice powder

What to do:

  1. First make the marinade. Mix together a few glugs of soy sauce, a couple of tablespoons oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon honey, some fivespice, the finely chopped garlic, and about half of your ginger (also finely chopped). Pour over the salmon, cover, and put in the fridge for 15 mins (or longer if you have the time). [Tip: if you marinate the salmon in an oven-proof dish, you’ll save on the washing up later.]
  2. Turn your oven to 180°C. Drain the excess marinade into a jug. Put the salmon in the oven for about 15 mins, until cooked through.
  3. Cook the noodles as per pack instructions (mine were dried, so required boiling first before I could stir fry them).
  4. Add about a tablespoon of oil to a frying pan (or a wok, if you have one). When hot, throw in the vegetables, sliced garlic, and the rest of the ginger cut into matchsticks. Stir fry for a few minutes.
  5. Add in the cooked noodles and the reserved marinade from the salmon. There probably won’t be quite enough of this, so add more soy sauce and oyster sauce as you deem it necessary. You can also add more fivespice at this point.
  6. Keep stirring until the veg is cooked but still firm. Put onto plates, top with a salmon steak, and enjoy!

Image

Epidavrian Citrus & Honey Yoghurt Cake

Oranges and lemons from Epidavros

Yoghurt cake is surprisingly versatile, and a lighter option if you enjoy baking but are worried about excessive cake consumption. I made a version of this last week with just the zest of an orange as flavouring (minus the lemon zest, vanilla, and honey), and it quickly disappeared! It’s great with ice cream or plain, my sister chose to drizzle honey over it, and mum had it with a kumquat preserve that she found in the cupboard. You can experiment with accompaniments and flavours (I might try a liqueur of some sort next, we seem to have loads of different ones hanging around) – the basic recipe remains the same, and better still, you only need one bowl. Easy peasy!

Ingredients:

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 150g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 300g Greek yoghurt (I used 2% fat)
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 2 tbsp good runny honey (I used an amazing local thyme honey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • flaked almonds, to top (optional)

What to do:

1. Pre-heat your oven to fan 160°C (or 180°C without the fan – I generally prefer to use the fan as it cooks things more evenly). Butter a cake tin – mine was approx 20x10cm; the recipe doesn’t make a huge amount of batter, so don’t use one that’s too big!

2. Mix together the flour, ground almonds, sugar, and salt in a bowl, then make a well in the centre.

3. Throw in the eggs, yoghurt, and oil, and stir with a spoon until you have a smooth batter. (Tip: Turn the bowl as you stir to speed up the process.)

4. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well, then pour the batter into your tin. Scatter over some flaked almonds.

5. Bake for about half an hour until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. (Don’t worry if it looks like it’s burning around the edges – you can always cut these off if you don’t like crusts, but personally I love them!) Cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so and then remove to a rack to allow the cake to cool further.

Image

The finished product!