Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A Cherry's Time is Short but Sweet

The English cherry season is but a brief spell in summer, that peaks around mid July, so there's just a little time left to indulge in them.
Lately I've been pleasantly surprised to see British cherries in all the shops, especially as we're often overrun with foreign imports, it makes quite a change to see even the supermarkets displaying boxes proudly displaying the Union Jack flag label.

British cherries have been under threat of almost extinction due to various factors (which I detailed in an article I wrote for The Artisan Food Trail blog) so it is a good idea to take advantage of their seasonal abundance and exercise some patriotism, just to keep them thriving.

In the town, where I live, we are sadly lacking a decent proper market, but we do have a regular, almost daily, fruit and veg stall that 'lives' opposite a building society. It is a lonesome stall but the cheery lady running it, seems to do a fair amount of trade and the array of produce is always fresh and inviting. 'Fresh Local Cherries', says the sign wedged into the back of a box stuffed full of shiny red baubles. Well, how could I refuse? She scoops them up and drops them into a brown paper bag, and scrunches the top. That took me back to my childhood when I would eat them like sweets, straight from the bag.

Exercising more grownup restraint my fruity haul made it home intact, which is a good thing as I would have had some explaining to do.

Cherries are delicious just as they are, of course, but I like to try different things with food. I did make a clafoutis, which is a French dish consisting of a rich sweet batter with the cherries baked, suspended in the mixture. That did taste good, but no photo I'm afraid. My exacting standards on appearances meant it was not quite up to the mark.

A Quick and Tasty Summer Salad
I also put together a simple salad (which is pictured). Fruit and cheese are good partners, Think of cheddar and apple, stilton and pear or brie and grapes, so I made a fairly bold decision and set the cherries alongside some soft white goat's cheese, with a mixture of spinach, rocket and watercress leaves and a simple balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing. Hunks of walnut bread were all that was needed to squash the cheese on to and to mop up all the lovely juices.

Photos: ©childsdesign 2011

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Seed Cake

Seed cake is a favourite of my parents and although I love it now, I do remember trying to enjoy it as a child. It seemed wrong not to like something that was cake, but somehow I had trouble with the unusual flavour and texture of the seeds. Please don't let this put you off as I'm sure it was a childhood finickiness that I eventually overcame through perseverance.

I like to use a basic madeira cake recipe for this one and the flourish of sugar over the top, before baking, gives a lovely crunchy texture. The cake is rich and buttery with a pleasing crumb and goes very well with a good cup of tea.
I find that the cake tastes better the next day and improves over time as the caraway seeds release their oils.

240g softened unsalted butter
200g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinking
1tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
210g self-raising flour
90g plain flour
1tbsp (generous) caraway seeds

Preheat oven at to 170 C / Gas mark 3. Grease a loaf tin with butter.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla extract.
Mix in the eggs, one at a time with a tablespoon of flour with each, then mix in all the remaining flour, then finally fold in the caraway seeds.
Sprinkle liberally with caster sugar just before putting it into the oven.
Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin before turning out onto wire rack.

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