Party Food

To celebrate my mum’s 80th birthday we baked a Betty Crocker Devil’s Food cake. I resisted the urge to add a vegetable and decided to follow the instructions on the packet for once. We were not disappointed it turned out grand as did the rest of the celebrations!

My daughter added the finishing touches with an American style frosting made up with butter, cocoa powder, cream cheese and icing sugar.

Before cake, of course, we feasted on Far Eastern Pie, a favourite recipe from Josceline Dimbleby’s recipe book: Marvelous Meals with Mince circa 1982 (2012 edition now available). It combines warmth, spice, meat, spinach under a creamy, crunchy coconut topping, you have to taste it to believe how moreish it is.

Take: 675g beef mince, 4 garlic gloves, 5cm piece of ginger, 3 tsp ground coriander, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp chilli powder or fresh chillies, half lemon juice, 40g ground rice (rice flour), 900ml milk, 75g desiccated coconut, 50g butter, 450g fresh spinach. Serves 6

Preheat oven Gas 5, 190C. Simmer coconut in milk 5 mins, set aside. Wilt spinach in boiled salted water 1 minute, drain, set aside. Melt butter and add spices, stir to mix in, add chopped garlic and ginger, after 1 minute add mince, break up over low heat until brown. Add spinach and lemon juice. Remove from heat and place in a shallow ovenproof dish.

Make the topping: strain the coconut, separate the milk and heat in a saucepan until simmering add rice flour, stir and let it thicken. Season, add a pinch of chilli powder. Spread over the mince and spinach. Melt butter and add drained coconut. When the coconut has absorbed all the butter spread evenly over the meat mixture. Bake for 40 minutes until top is browned and crispy.

It went down very well with a green salad and a few glasses of sparkling wine. Followed by a photo call after lunch with the grand daughters and Robbie who decided to get in on the act. Happy Birthday to the Lady in Red xx

A Cake is Born

If I ever said potatoes were boring I take it all back. Put one in a cake with vodka and Bitters and all sorts of mischief happens. The Amorosa potato variety in this week’s box is described by Duncan Jannaway, the organic Hampshire farmer who grew it, as ‘pink skinned with creamy firm flesh’. That makes it the ideal spud for this decadent cake with a reputation for being a bit of a lush.

This is a grown up sophisticated cake not too sweet with lots of mystery and a bit of spice. Delightfully light and bouncy with a fine texture not unlike a Victoria Sponge but without the immaculate reputation. Add a spoonful of raspberry jam, a drop of fresh cream, put out the best china and Voila! . . . an innocent cream tea for two and no one need know what’s going on with the cake.

Amorosa Cake is inspired by the combination of Harry Eastwood’s recipe for Miss Marple Seed Cake and the name of a luscious potato, see above. I had intended to make Ms Eastwood’s recipe but lacked caraway seeds and brandy, hence my improvised version. If you’ve invented a cake with vegetables, with or without a tipple, I’d love to hear about it.

Take: 240g raw potato peeled and grated, 100g rice flour, 50g ground almonds, 2 tbsp of vodka, 1/2 tsp Angostura Bitters, 2 tsp baking powder, 3 medium eggs, 160g caster sugar, pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg. 18cm cake tin (spring release best)

1 Preheat the oven 180C/gas mark 4. Prepare cake tin with baking parchment lining the base and butter the insides.

2 Whisk eggs, sugar and salt till pale and volume doubled.

3 Fold in grated potato, don’t let the colour of the grated potato put you off as it turns into grey matter after a minute or two. I’d probably grate it straight into the egg sugar mix next time. Fold in all the other ingredients in stages to get an even mix.

4 Pour mixture into the tin and position mid oven. Bake for about 40 minutes. Mine was done in about 35 minutes.

5 Remove cake from oven and leave on a cooling rack. Sprinkle top with caster sugar for serving and all’s set for a delightful afternoon tea.