Sunday, 11 January 2015

Recipe - Easy Peasy Rock Cakes

Location: Oxford, Oxford, UK

I've never watched Great British Bake Off before. There, I've said it [runs for cover]. Before last year that is. Last year I watched GBBO for the very first time and realised what everyone else did ages ago, that it’s awesome! I’m not someone who generally enjoys baking, but watching all the drama unfold - those sideways sneaky peaks at neighbouring kitchenettes, the ‘to prove or not to prove’ dilemmas, the show-stopping show-stoppers, coupled with Paul Hollywood stalking his way round each of the contestants’ benches like a lion with its prey - I could barely tear my eyes away.

Seeing all those delicious creations almost sent me running straight for the kitchen to immerse myself in a dust cloud of flour and icing sugar. Not quite though, because I’m simply not a baker at heart – and heart, I think, is required. When it comes to working with food, you have to love what you do.; otherwise that lack of passion will ring through every mouthful.

Though not a natural Mary Berry, I am occasionally tempted to step into the bakery arena and have one little recipe that saves the day every time I fancy something baked, sweet and homemade – the ever so humble Rock Cake.

Five minutes to prepare, then 15-20 minutes in a hot oven and BOOM, instant gratification. The husband loves them, the kids love them, plus they can be made large or small enough for packed lunches, biscuit tins… or simply stuffing straight into your mouth. Now this is home baking I can enjoy.

So as a change to my usual wittering on, and for all you other non-bakers out there, I’m going to share the easiest recipe of all (other than MrF’s ‘cheese on toast rules’), my mother-in-law’s Rock Cakes.

You will need…
8oz/225g self raising flour
3oz/85g sugar (I use golden caster sugar)
3oz/85g margarine (I use unsalted butter)
4oz/115g sultanas
One egg, beaten
Some milk
  • Mix the flour and sugar into a bowl, then rub in the margarine/butter.
  • Mix in sultanas.
  • Mix in the egg and enough milk to form a stiff dough.
  • Form into 10-15 rough heaps and place onto a greased baking tray.
  • Bake in hot oven (425-450°F/220-230°C/Gas 7-8) for approx. 14-20 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out dry.
Pop them on a cooling rack if you have one, until ready to eat – et voila, perfectly formed little handfuls of subtlety sweet, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside cake. Good bake, as the queen of baking might say. Just make sure you get in there early, they go really fast. 

Published in the Nov/Dec 2014 edition of Vale Life

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Hello 2015!

Location: Oxford, Oxford, UK

With the festive season full of overindulgence, New Year is a natural time for those all too familiar health related resolutions – stop smoking, start dieting, drink less, hit the treadmill – you know, the ones that last all of a month or two. This year though, I’ve decided not to bother lying to myself that I’ll make use of that annual gym membership.

Though generally not one for resolutions, this year it's about time I set one or two I might actually stand a chance of keeping. So, what of my resolutions for 2015? Well, in order to look forward, we first have to look back.

Having launched a street food collective, Bitten Street, 2014 involved an awful lot of - you guessed it - street food. I've tasted my way through everything from pulled pork, to gourmet burgers, pimped-up hot dogs, numerous varieties of dumpling, American and British bbq, curries from Tibet, Japan, India and Thailand, churros and pizza. I can't even say I'm bored of it yet, street food just keeps on getting better and better.

Pho - Vietnamese noodle soup

But there are some foods in particular that left me wishing I could cook it at home. Vietnamese street food in particular has enthralled my taste buds, with its potent balance of herbs and spices, so this year I’m challenging myself to learn some Vietnamese recipes. Resolution number one sorted!

While resolution number one is all about food pleasure, resolution number two is more about food conscience. Having spent an awful lot of the last two years focussed on food, and given I write about it regularly, it dawned on me that there is still a lot more I need to learn about its ethics.

Great local groups like Good Food Oxford and Cultivate Oxford have been springing up around me, focussed on building local and sustainable food networks and knowledge, whilst finding better solutions for ongoing food issues. 

Good Food Oxford website

This has been making me question things a lot more. Where does my food come from? Is it sustainable? How does it affect our planet? Our community? So my next challenge is to learn about these topics. Think of it an idiot’s guide to food ethics, starting right at the beginning.

So with food for the belly, food for the brain and food for the soul all covered, I think I’ll leave it at that. Whatever your own plans for New Year resolutions, I hope you had a wonderfully delicious Christmas and have a fabulous foodie year ahead. 

Love Foodie x

Published in the Jan/Dec edition of Vale Life Magazine
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