COTM: Sour Cream and Lime Carrot Cake

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

In general you can’t go wrong with carrot cake. In any café, when other cakes are looking a bit iffy, go for the carrot cake and you usually won’t be dissapointed. Usually that is. Last month we were browsing the Army Surplus store in a small town not far from us; they have a small 1940’s tea room which was utterly charming – home made cakes, my favourite period tea set and a table made from half a jeep! Sadly the carrot cake was soggy, heavy, underdone and kind of “meh” (of course, being British I didn’t like to say anything!) Mr Crumbs didn’t mind so much, but when your own carrot cake has been praised as “the best I’ve ever tasted” by more than one person it’s easy to be overly judgemental. I will go back, if only to admire the tea set, though next time I’ll be ordering something else!

There are plenty of recipes about, mostly simple, some stupidly fancy and complex, which is gilding the lily if you ask me. The beauty of carrot cake for me is it’s simplicity and wholesome taste, and it’s got vegetables in right? I’m sure they cancel out the sugar and fat!

My only grumble is being made with oil rather than butter, leftovers in the tin get soggier over time, if there are any leftovers…

So can carrot cake be improved on? Recently there were a few odds and ends left over from other recipies – namely sour cream and a few limes – it seemed like the right thing to do.

Tangy Sour Cream and Lime Carrot Cake

  • 6oz (180g) brown sugar
  • 3oz (90g) very soft butter
  • 3oz (90g) sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 4oz (120g) chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 8oz (240g) grated carrots
  • 6oz (180g) wholemeal flour
  • 2oz (60g) rolled oats
  • 1 tsp each baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • zest of 2 limes and juice of 1
  • 1tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 180ºc (160 fan/ gas mark 4). Grease and line a deep springform or loose bottomed cake tin.

Chop the nuts into smallish pieces. Grate the carrots.

Beat together the sugar, butter and sour cream. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the nuts, carrot, lime zest and juice.

In a separate bowl sift together the flour, salt, ginger, baking powder and soda. Stir in the oats (I whizz them briefly in a food processor to break them down a little, but it’s not absoloutely necessary)

Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Pour into the cake tin and bake for around 40mins to 1hr. Halfway through the cooking time cover the top with a square of baking parchment. This stops the top from burning before the middle is done. The cake is done when it is well risen, golden brown and a skewer piked in the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for up to ten mins, them remove from the tin and finish cooling on a wire rack.

You can use traditional or cream cheese icing if you like. I went for this glaze:

  • 3oz (90g) sifted icing sugar
  • 1tbsp soft butter
  • 1tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tsp of lime juice

Blend all the ingredients together and spread over the cake while it’s still piping hot.

Carrots have been used since the middle ages to add sweetness when sugar is scarce or expensive. Carrot cake as we know it probably evolved from carrot pudding which was popular in Victorian times and during the war.

Limes are ripe when yellow and slightly wrinkled.

George

Meet George. George is a gall bladder. My gall bladder. George is inflamed. He dissaproves of red meat, cheese, cream, butter, chocolate and biscuits. He’s not too sure about sugary or spicy foods either. Tea and coffee annoy him. The worst thing is he’s so arbitrary, he might let a sneaky piece of cake pass, but then kick up a fuss about something as innocent as a bowl of cornflakes. The whole thing is seriously impacting on my mental wellbeing. Eating? Well it’s practically my number 1 hobby!

Me: “I will eat some of this yummy and nutritious food”

George: “Why don’t I just go ahead and make some stones right now?”

Me: “Just a little bit?”

George: “FOOL! Now you must be punished!”

Cue bloating, stabbing pains and severe poopies.

George is a jerk.

Chocolate Chips and More

Last year, Buttered Crumbs went through a phase of adding various “chips” to biscuits. Mini chocolate eggs, Daim bar pieces, sugared almonds and so on. But I don’t think I ever got round to posting a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, so here you go. It’s based on the recipe from the first Hummingbird Bakery book, and one of the best I’ve come across.

Have you seen those extra small chocolate mini eggs? They’re a fabulous alternative to choc chips or Smarties ( a British M&M) in a nice chunky cookie. Anyway, now is the time to buy some because you can only get them around Easter time

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 115g  soft butter
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1¼ bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g – 150g chocolate chips/ Smarties or similar

Makes around 12

Preheat the oven to 170°c (gas mark 3). Grease a couple of baking trays.

Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

Sift the flour, salt and soda into the mixture and  mix until a soft dough is formed. Stir in the choc chips.

Roll the dough into balls about the size of a walnut ( or bigger, it’s up to you), pop them well apart on the baking trays. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Allow to cool for a minute on the trays, if you try to move them too soon they will fall apart. Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

I would love to know what wild and wonderful things you add to your cookies!

minieggs

 

Ice Cream of the Month For Breakfast: Blueberry Pancake

Blueberry pancakes for breakfast, mmm. Studded with blueberries or smothered in blueberry sauce, pancakes are perfect for a leisurely breakfast, also the inspiration behind March’s ice cream of the month, for Ice Cream for Breakfast day falls on the 21st of March. www.facebook.com/March21IceCreamforBreakfast/info?tab=page_info

It’s the small, silly and fun things that make life enjoyable. Eating quinoa and sawdust for breakfast is all very healthy and admirable, but hardly a celebration of life!

Naiive as I am, I thought I was being clever and original, but no! In internet land there are quite a few recipes claiming to be pancake flavoured. At least my method is different, the ones I looked at used butter “extract”, buttermilk and maple syrup to make a taste reminicent of pancakes. I go a step further and actually use batter! And you know what, it worked!

Have you ever heard of Hasty Pudding? No? Well it’s a simple batter pudding that takes a matter of minutes to make and has a thick , velvetey texture. Add cream, sugar and a blueberry ripple, and there you have it. You saw it here first, folks !

Blueberry Pancake Ice Cream

for the blueberry sauce:

  • a small punnet of blueberries
  • 30g sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Put the berries and lemon juice in a small saucepan and heat gently until the berries are soft. They release a lot of juice so don’t add any extra liquid. Stir in the sugar. Squish the berries with a potato masher. Leave to cool, then chill in the fridge.

For the ice cream:

  • 50g butter
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 300ml milk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 300ml double cream

Melt the butter in a small pan, stir in the flour and allow to cook for a minute. Off the heat, very gradually whisk in the milk. It will look a bit lumpy to begin with, but will soon become smooth. Stir in the sugar.

Over a medium heat and stirring briskly the whole time, simmer the mixture until it thickens.

Remove from the heat. Beat the egg in a separate bowl, then whisk into the mixture. Allow to cook for one minute more, it should be nice and thick now.

Pour through a sieve, into a jug to remove any stray lumps. Stir in the cream. Leave to cool, then chill in the fridge.

Following the instructions for your machine, or using a hand method, make the ice cream. In a 1.5 litre tupperware container, alternate blobs of ice cream with blobs of sauce. Stir gently with a knife to ripple them together. Freeze until firm.

This ice cream sets very firmly, take it out of the freezer for 10 mins prior to serving or cut into blocks.

pancake 2

Vintage Recipe: Saagwalla Dhal the Comfort Curry

Does 1993 count as vintage? It’s 23 years ago, so not exactly contemporary. Let’s say sort of vintage then.

One of the most useful books to come my way has been “Indian Cooking”, published in 1993 by Parragon. You can tell how well used it is by the enormous grease stains on the pages!Just a cheapy discount book from now defunct Woolworths (a moments silence please) It can’t have cost very much as we never had much money to spare in the early day’s of marriage. Unlike many cheaply produced books this one is full of delicious, authentic and reliable recipes and well worth buying if you see it in a charity shop somewhere.

Recently my poor dear mother had to have most of her insides taken out (seriously, they took everything going spare) and was indisposed for a good few weeks. Feeling weak and nauseous, food was a difficult subject. When asked if there was anything at all she imagined being able to stomach, she said the only thing she could think of was the “lentil” curry I had served up several years ago. Great on two counts: I was going to make it anyway and Wow! What an ego boost, Mother doesn’t give praise lightly!

So my dear Crumbies, tonight I share a recipe that is healthy, tasty, vegetarian and a curry night stalwart. Rather than lentils, it calls for moong dhal (skinless, split mung beans) which have more substance than lentils but are much nicer than split peas. I haven’t fed anyone who didn’t like this curry, even the children love it! Moong Dhal are available from the larger supermarkets or try your local Asian corner shop.

Sagwalla Dhal  serves 6-8

  • 6oz (170g) moong dhal (soaked for 2 hours)
  • 2 heaped tbsp ghee or butter
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 green chilli, cut in half (remove the seeds if you want it milder)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • ½ tsp ground tumeric
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ¼ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or a couple of tinned tomatoes)
  • 20 floz (570ml) warm water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 or 2 dries red chillies, chopped or crushed chilli flakes to taste
  • a pack of fresh baby spinach or 4oz (100g) frozen
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (optional)

You remembered to soak the dhal right? You can get away with only 1 hr if you’re short of time. Drain well.

Melt the ghee/butter in a large pan (if using butter, add a splash of oil to stop it burning) Fry the onion, green chilli and cinnamon till the onion is lightly browned. Add the tumeric, garam masala, chilli powder and cumin. Fry for 1 min.

Add the dhal, turn the heat down a little and fry for about 5 mins, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook for 3 mins. Add the water, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 30 mins, stirring now and then.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a seperate frying pan and cook the mustard seeds until they begin to pop. Add the garlic and dried chilli, cook till the garlic is lightly browned. Add the spinach and cook gently for 5 mins or until thoroughly wilted.

Add the spinach to the dhal and cook for a few more minutes. Stir in some chopped coriander leaves if you like.

This is a very forgiving curry, it will happily sit aroung waiting for late guests and any leftovers freeze well. I love to serve it with homemade roti or chapatties, though rice or naan bread will do just as well. Enjoy!

Saag is a Punjabi word for spinach.