Cake Of The Month: Mmmalted Mmmilk

A week or so ago I made a salted caramel chocoate cake from a recipe featured in the 25th anniversary (or 20th, I can’t remember) edition of the BBC Good Food magazine. “Aren’t you featuring it as cake of the month” asked Mr Crumbs. The answer was a resounding no! Yes it was decadent and gooey BUT it was not comforting. It was a daunting cake, an oppressive cake, just looking at it sent one into paroxysms of guilt over the calorie content. The overall impression was a cake sweeter than sugar, more chocolatey than chocolate and salty as bag of crisps. Making it was an ordeal, labour intensive and taking a whole day. It scared me!

salted c

Malted Milk cake on the other hand is a speedy joy to make and very easy to eat! The clocks have gone back, the dark nights are drawing in, the weather is predominately damp and the late autumn air is whispering “go inside, put on some fluffy socks and have a hot drink!” Who am I to argue? Not everyone likes hot malted milk drinks, but do try it in cake form.

You will need some malted milk powder, Ovaltine or Horlicks are readily available, make sure it’s the “add milk” style not instant. Chocolate flavour works too but I prefer good ol’ original in a cake and keep the chocolate flavour for drinking. You could decorate the top with whole or crushed Malteasers if you liked. I bought a big bag for this purpose but ate them all, then I bought another big bag and ate all those too. Rather than greed and a lack of self control, I prefer to think of it as my sub concious giving me a sign that there is beauty in simplicity and a cake so wonderful needs no extra adornment.

malted sliceMalted Milk Cake

  • 4oz (120g) butter
  • 7oz (210g) golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 10oz (300g) plain flour
  • 4oz (120g) malted milk powder
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 8floz (230ml) milk

Grease and line two sandwich cake tins. Pre heat the oven to 170°c/150 fan/gas mark 4.

Using a hand mixer or wooden spoon, beat together the butter and sugar. Whisk in the eggs.

Sift together the flour, malted milk and baking powder. Add to the mixture in three or four stages, alternating with the milk until everything is well blended.

Divide between the cake tins and bake for around 20 mins until golden brown and springy to the touch. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then finish cooling on a wire rack.

For the icing:

  • 4oz (120g) soft butter
  • 8oz sifted icing sugar
  • 4 tbsp malted milk powder
  • 4 to 6 tbsp milk

Put everything in a big bowl and mix together, adding more milk if necessary for a soft spreading consistency. Use half to sandwich the cakes together and spread the other half on top.

Malt is made from sprouted barley.

Buttered crumbs Bake off: Petit Fours

Petit fours: small bite sized cakes, pastries and desserts, named after the small oven they were traditionally baked in. In my case petit fails is a more appropriate term. The challenge was to make three varieties of petit four, meringue, choux pastry and macarons. Oh boy!

1. Meringue. I chose  a traditional French petit four known as a miroir. The method gave me no idea of how big to make them or how many I could expect to get. Sooo, they ended up about four times as large as they should be, but they were jolly nice. Meringue with ground almonds in it, filled with frangipan and glazed with fruity jam. Yummy!

2. Choux pastry. I’d never made choux pastry before so decided to keep it simple with just a cream bun. Everything was going pleasantly smoothly, but…they did not puff up in the oven as expected, so I ended up with a tray full of claggy, sweet-salty scrambled egg patties. Even my usual jokes about “shoe” pastry seemed inadequate to describe the obcene eggy monstrosities. I had to spit my mouthful out, so did small boy. Mr Crumbs declared them delicious, he can be very odd sometimes.

shoe 1Now I have a new found respect for people who can whip up a batch of profiteroles at a moments notice.

3. Macarons. I ran out of ground almonds, sorry!

Verdict: Leaving the tent

Next Time: Bread

Ice Cream Of The Month: Sweetcorn

It was a toss up between pumpkin pie flavour and sweetcorn. Pumpkin pie was flavoured with cinnamon, mace and cloves which was lovely, but the butternut squash puree gave it an ever so slightly mealy texture. The sweetcorn was infused in the milk, giving a heady, sweet and almost fruity flavour, with no bits or lack of creaminess. Early October was an ideal time to buy sweetcorn, as you can get the locally grown cobs for around 69p per pack instead of the out-of-season imported price of £1.20.

The recipe came from the September issue of Delicious magazine

Even without the butterscotch sauce it was really good. I’d previously dissed sweetcorn flavour as too weird, which goes to show you should always try things before you judge!


Pumpkin Pie ice cream
Pumpkin Pie ice cream

On the prevelance of pumpkin spice latte:


Curry Night

It’s pretty exciting to have curry week and chocolate week at the same time, two of the greatest comfort foods of all time. I’m using it as a prompt to get me to try some of the recipes that have been building up in my magazine cuttings file.

Here is a lovely posh lamb balti that would work as a romantic dinner for two, a family meal or scaled up for a curry night with friends.
Based on the “All in one posh lamb balti” from an old issue of BBC Good Food magazine. I skipped the marinade part and adapted the recipe for the slow cooker.

Slow Cooked Lamb Balti

Serves 4 to 6

  • Vegetable oil
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 2 onions
  • 1.5 tsp each of ground cumin, ground tumeric and kalonji seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tbsp garam masala
  • 6 tbsp balti or other curry paste
  • 3 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • A can of tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp mango chutney
  • Half a bunch of coriander leaves
  • A small pack of pomegranate seeds

Brown the lamb shanks. Fry the onions in a little oil till soft. Add the spices and toast for a minute. Add the curry paste and cook for another minute.

Peel and chop the ginger and garlic. Add to a food processor with the tomatoes and whizz to a paste.

Put everything, lamb, onions, tomatoes and remaining ingredients into the slow cooker. Add a couple of pinches of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice if you have some. Put the lid on and cook for around 6 hours. Test for seasoning and thicken the sauce with ground almonds. Add the chopped coriander. Plate up and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

I served it with rice, poppadoms and The Bytham Kitchen’s award winning carrot, ginger and garlic chutney, one of the treats we picked up at the Melton Mowbary food festival.

British Food

British food fortnight is sadly ending. British food is traditionally mocked by pretty much everyone, including us. The French sneer, the Italians joke (in Italy trifle is known as zuppa Inglese, literally “English soup”), others may dismiss English food as bland and badly cooked and the English as having poor taste and undiscerning palates. Sadly, thanks to the industrial revoloution and two world wars we were sadly out of touch with quality foods, where to get them and how to bring out the best of the simple ingredients available to us. The writer W. Somerset Maugham famously said “To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day” and John Betjeman ridiculed resturant food in his poem “The Town Clerks View”

” Already our hotels are pretty good

For those who’re fond of very simple food-

Cod and two veg., free pepper, salt and mustard,

Followed by nice hard plums and lumpy custard”

In truth British cuisine has always been a melting pot of different influences thanks to the various invaders, settlers and colonialization. Sadly our cool, damp climate isn’t suited to the production of the fruit, veg and herbs and spices grown by our European cousins. What we grow best is meat, hence the traditional meat and two veg, anything more exciting tends to be imported. We do love fancy food though, always have done, from the outlandish sauces of the Middle Ages to today’s national dish – curry. Today thankfully the stereotype no longer fits, we are a nation of foodies (mostly) expecting good food in our resturants, schools, supermarkets etc and with an insatiable appetite for T.V’s food porn. So, you may not like British food but that does not make it intrinsically bad, anymore than me not liking sushi means there is something wrong with it.

Personally I love my nations food, after a cold, wet day of stiff-upper-lipping and drinking tea, there is nothing better than a hearty roast dinner with plenty of meaty gravy, followed by pudding and custard.

One of the nicest things we ate this week was kedgeree. Based on an Indian rice and lentil curry – khichri, and adapted to English tastes and ingredients. It can be as simple as rice with flaked haddock and chopped boiled eggs, dressed with butter and parsley though I prefer this souped up version:

Souped up Kedgeree

  • two small to medium sized fillets of smoked haddock
  • 4 eggs
  • 7½ oz (210g) long grain rice
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • half a bag of baby salad leaves
  • half a small bunch of fresh coriander
  • 1 tbsp mango chutney
  • butter and oil for cooking
  • milk for poaching
  • salt and pepper

Cook the rice till “al dente”, drain off any remaing water and put to one side. Poach the haddock fillets in milk till just done, around 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Boil the eggs for 5 mins then leave in a pan of cold water to cool down.

Shred the salad leaves, finely chop the coriander and put to one side.

Thinly slice the onion and garlic. Fry them gently in about 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter till golden. Stir in the spices and cook for 1 minute. Add the flaked fish and rice, a generous pinch of salt and a good grinding of black pepper and stir till everything is lightly coated in spice.

Add the salad leaves, coriander and mango chutney. Stir till the leaves have wilted. Remove from the heat.

Quickly shell the eggs and cut them into quarters. Divide the kedgereee between bowls and top with the boiled egg.

Excellent for lunch or supper or for breakfast if you are a crusty old Major.