Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cranberry and Cinnamon Cake

I adore baking.  There is something rather magical yet simple about the whole therapeutic process which produces sweet goodies to be shared with loved ones.  So, when heading over to see dear friends for lunch last weekend and a belated festive celebration, it made perfect sense to make a treat that used cranberries and cinnamon to conjure that christmassy feeling.  I used the fresh cranberry cake recipe from but couldn't help but tweak it!  

Cranberry and Cinnamon Cake
Streusel Topping
65g chopped or flaked almonds
20g unsalted butter, melted
20g light soft brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

160g plain flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
300g caster sugar (I only used 225g)
100g butter, melted and cooled
¾ tsp vanilla extract
250g fresh cranberries

Heat the oven to 150C. Grease an 8inch loose bottomed or spring form cake tin.

Method – Streusel
Combine the butter, almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Work the mixture between your fingers to form large crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Method – Cake
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until it is well combined (around five minutes).
Add the butter in a slow stream with the mixer on low, then turn up the speed to medium and beat for another couple of minutes. Stir in the vanilla.
Fold in the flour mixture a few large spoons at a time.
Stir in the cranberries.
Pour the butter into the prepared cake tin and smooth.
Sprinkle the streusel over the batter.
Bake in the centre of the oven until it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1hour 10 minutes.
Let the cake cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool completely. 

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Venison, Chestnut & Mushroom Casserole

I am going to gloss over the fact that 2010 saw a woeful lack of posts from this particular blogger.  I could conjure all manner of tales of devoting my time to learning to tap dance, to walk a tight-rope or saving small amphibians in the outer hebrides.  Or I could admit the very boring truth - that I've been devoting too much time to establishing myself as an independent businesswoman.  Too much of my life has become dictated by work that is clear and my outside interests and passions have taken something of a backseat.  Well, time for a change!

I still devour cook-books avidly and every morning I eat my breakfast whilst reading food blogs and even dabble occasionally in the kitchen but somehow the outcomes have not made it to Lemon Soul.  Whilst reviewing the imbalance of my life, I spied the perfect opportunity to kick-start the change with regards to blogging. A couple of meat-loving girlfriends were coming over for Sunday lunch.  Not only did I have a rare opportunity to cook meat but, aha, also an opportunity to take pictures and blog.  So, here it is.  A stew that is perfect for a very long and leisurely lunch on a wintery Sunday.

Venison, Chestnut & Mushroom Casserole
500g venison steak, cubed
2 tbsp cornflour/plain flour seasoned with salt and black pepper
olive oil
2 banana shallots, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 rashers smoked bacon, chopped into small pieces
200g mini chestnut mushrooms, wiped clean
300ml red wine
300ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp tomato puree
bay leaf
2 springs fresh thyme
200g pack of vacuum pack of cooked, peeled chestnuts
chunk of dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
First remove any traces of fat or sinew from the venison. Pat the meat dry with kitchen towel, then toss the meat in the seasoned flour (I find that throwing everything into a plastic bag is easiest – just remember to zip it shut!).
Heat 2tbsp of oil in a flameproof casserole and brown the meat until browned all over to seal in the flavour.  Remove the meat.
Add 1tbsp or so of oil to the plan and tip in the onion and garlic. Fry until soft.  Add the bacon and fry until it starts to crisp, adding more oil as necessary.
Add the mushrooms, add the chestnuts (breaking larger ones into smaller chunks) and return the meat to the pan.
Add the wine, stock, herbs and stir in the tomato puree.  Season, stir thoroughly and bring to the boil. 
Reduce to a simmer and then either simmer on the oven top or put in the oven. Cook for 1 ¼  hours if you are going to reheat the dish, else cook for 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours, adding the chestnuts 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
When cooked, throw in a chunk of dark chocolate and stir until melted.