Appelcake (Dutch Apple Cake)

Again, another recipe for the apple season, and this one is gorgeous – moist and appley, but firm with it – something to really sink your teeth in to, cosied up around the fire. Jay made this Appelcake for us, and it’s definitely a firm family favourite now!2015 Apple Cake

3 medium cooking apples – peeled and cut into slices
fruit sugar – 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2/3 cup of butter
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of plain flour

In a bowl combine the apples, tablespoon of fruit sugar and cinammon. Cover, allow to stand for an hour.

In another bowl whisk the butter and 1 1/2 cups of fruit sugar. Add eggs, one at a time (beat each one in). Add vanilla. Gradually add flour to this mixture and beat until smooth.

Transfer to a greased loaf pan – better if lined with greaseproof paper. Push the apple slices into the mixture – vertically if possible.

Based at 140o fan oven, for 1 1/2 hours or until golden brown and a knife comes out clean when inserted.

Cool on a wire rack.

Eierkoeken (Egg Cakes)

One of the recipes Suz brought back from her time in the Netherlands, it’s become a firm favourite here and conjures up memories of autumn days and warm homely cooking! Dutch egg cakes – eat straight from the oven, or serve topped with low-fat creme fraiche and fruit in a bowl.

5 large eggs
1 cup of sugar (or half a cup of fruit sugar)
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 cups of plain flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
You can add cinnamon or mixed spice for a slightly different flavour.

Combine eggs, sugar and vanilla in a bowl (whisk).
In a different bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt (at this point other flavouring if required).
Pour the ingredients from the 2nd bowl into the first bowl and mix thoroughly. I use a hand-held whisk.
The mixture is quite stiff.
Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Spoon large dollops of the mixtures onto the baking trays – leave space around the dollops as they spread!
Bake in fan oven 160 Celsius for 10 to 15 minutes. This results in a very firm slightly domed ‘eggy’ flavour sponge – best eaten warm!

2015 apple jam

Sugar-free Apple Jam

A sugar-free apple jam recipe – something not too sweet to spread on your toast or, my favourite, stir into your breakfast porridge 🙂

2 lb eating apples (net weight once cored)
2 tablespoons hot water
8 sweetener tablets (e.g. Canderel)
1/2 oz powdered vegetarian gelatine
Powdered cinnamon if required.

Prepare/sterilise the jars – put lids / seals into a saucepan of boiling water for a while. Wash jars with soapy water, drip dry and place in a warm oven for half an hour.

1. Simmer fruit with hot water until soft (there will still be sizeable lumps of apple in it it doesn’t need to be smooth).
2. Crush the sweeteners and stir into the hot apples (not boiling)
3. Add the vegetarian gelatine dissolved in a little hot water.
4. More water can be added to the mixture if you feel the texture needs it (add cinnamon at this stage if required)
5. Stir for several minutes.
6. Spoon into the jars.
7. We have kept ours in the fridge as the shelf life is unknown at the moment.

Very healthy and delicious on puddings / cereal / hot oat cereal. Delicious on sugar-free eierkoeken.

Red Onion Soup

2015 red onion soup 1As you could see from the post about our bumper onion harvest, we have an awfully large pile of onions to plough our way through. Here’s a simple onion soup recipe that’s perfect to ward off any chill after working outside on a typical English autumnal day in September. Add some crusty Red Leicester bread and it’s pure heaven, in a soup bowl.


Butter or olive oil
1 kg red onions – thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves – chopped
2 tbsp flour
200 ml red wine
1 litre vegetable stock (boiling)
Handful of fresh garden herbs.
grated cheese – a handful for each bowl

Enough for 4 people.


2015 red onion soup 2Melt the butter in a pan, or heat the olive oil.
Add the onions and fry – keep stirring until caramelised.
Add the garlic, cook for a couple of minutes.
Sprinkle on the flour, stir.
Increased the heat – add the wine, hot stock, fresh herbs.
Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.

Into bowls, add a handful of cheese on the top.

Simple White Currant Cordial – Sugar & Sugar Free

This is such a simple recipe for white currant cordial, and one we had a go at last year for a sugar-free version which used red currants instead (essentially the same berry, with more pigmentation).

Every year we struggle to think of things to do with our white currants. I know there are many things we *can* do, but in reality, there’s only so much jelly you can eat, and we don’t eat enough meat to cook a portion up to accompany it when the berries are ripe. So as I stood by the two bushes we have, taking a break from turning some weeds over, I thought I’d look for a useful recipe that would keep, that didn’t involved freezing the blighters, which can be summed up as a ‘putting the (nice) problem off’ solution.

Cordial was the answer. Everyone likes a drink, albeit sugar-laden, so at the end of this post I’ve also added a sugar-free version. It won’t keep for long, but as it’s sugar-free you won’t feel guilty gulping it down!

Step 1 – Pick the currants! Bit obvious, but important, as it’s the step where you make sure you pick as many of the decent currants as possible, and none of the mouldy or dried currants. Just place a bag or similar under the currants and snip them off with a pair of scissors – easiest method. Jay cut ours on the promise that this drink, unlike many recent ones, was suitable for younger people!

Step 2 – Wash the currants thoroughly – stalks and all. Discard any currants that look dodgy, get rid of stray leaves.

2015 white currant cordia 1Step 3 – Place the currants in a pan – we use the invaluable, and much abused, jam pan. We started out with 3kg of white currants – stalks and all – don’t go to the trouble of removing them! We used to for some recipes, and it’s a needless pain if you’re going to seive the liquid anyway. Add 600ml of water for every kg.

2015 white currant cordia 2Step 4 – Cook them gently until they’re soft and the skins have broken down. In reality I forgot ours and left them on their initial high heat for a while. Suz saved them, turned them down again, and there were no noticeable adverse effects.

2015 white currant cordia 3Step 5 – Strain the juice. Finally, after several years of laying a cloth in a colander, we have invested in a strainer! Posh eh?! It’s one of those things you’d wished you’d done earlier, as we use the technique for so many things. They’ll drain pretty much instantly – I left them overnight and only gained an extra quarter cup of juice – not worth it really.

2015 white currant cordia 4Step 6 – Add 700g of sugar to every litre of juice, in a pan, and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. I used demerara sugar, which doesn’t give the most pleasing final colour (dirty dishwater      brown!), but does taste delicious. For the sugar-free version I just added 15 sweeteners (Canderel tablets)  to a half litre of juice.

2015 white currant cordia 5Step 7 – Bottle the cordial in sterilised bottles.

The final cordial should keep for several months, but the sugar free version I don’t think will last anywhere near that. In fact I popped mine in the fridge and give it a week maximum, to be safe. To see the effect sugar has on the 2015 white currant cordia 6colour – the photograph to the right shows the sugar-free version in the foreground, with the two litres of juice with demerara sugar added behind.

I used sterlising powder for the bottles, which you can buy at any homebrew shop, and the bottles are some I purchased in a sale at IKEA ages ago – they seem quite sturdy (better than the new Kilner bottles if I’m honest – more metal in the clips).

Beetroot Curry

The relentless onslaught of beetroot recipes to use up the supply that seems to be the porridge-pot of the veggie patch has turned up this from Suz – beetroot curry!

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp lemon grass (powder)
  • 2 large onions roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic – crushed
  • 2 tsp chili flakes (more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1/2 litre vegetable stock
  • 1/4 litre coconut milk
  • 400/500 g beetroot – cooked, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Salt and black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan. Fry the spices until they start to brown. Add the onion and garlic, cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the chili flakes, tomato puree, veg stock, coconut milk and beetroot.
Season with salt and black pepper.

Bring to the boil, simmer for approx. 45 mins until onion and beetroot have a good consistency.

Add more coconut milk or water if the mixture starts to dry out.

Serve with chapatis/rice – or here Suz added grilled Halloumi cheese (squeaky cheese as we like to call it), though paneer might be more in keeping 🙂

Can be served with yoghurt and with fresh coriander mixed through.

For an even better experience, leave it to stand overnight in the fridge – the flavours really come out when reheated the day after.

Chopped Beetroot with Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette

It’s beetroot season again and, if like us, you have a mountain of scrumptious beetroot to find uses for, here’s one amazing one that will keep covered in the fridge for several days, and tastes better the longer you leave it, within reason!

Boil the beetroot in a large pan until cooked.


  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped red onion, or shallots
  • sprinkle of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Put all ingredients for vinaigrette into a bowl except for the oil. Slowly add the oil to the ingredients whilst whisking. Pour onto the cooked/cooled beetroot.

Roma VF Tomatoes

We’ve tried a few varieties of tomatoes here at Merrybower, but never a cooking tomato. This year we’ve planted eight Roma VF plum tomatoes in a greenhouse, just to see what would happen. Well, it’s been the perfect year for tomato growing! The heat has meant longer days of warmth, although water was soaked up so quickly that some days they needed watering three times!

They are pretty disgusting raw – dry, fleshy, no juice and tough skins. However, halved and cooked on a low (100C) heat for 16 or so hours and they make perfect oven-dried tomatoes. Mixed with olive oil, garlic slices and mixed herbs in a jar and they are delicious!

Dandelion Coffee

Dandelion Root Coffee

Right – over the last few years I’ve made it my passion to remove any dandelion I see in the patch. I’ve seen a field not too far from us, heaving with them, and I know how much of a pain it is to get rid of them. Therefore, every spring will see me armed with fork and barrow, marching through the patch, pulling dandelion after dandelion – it’s war on a grand scale, and the enemy is relentless.

I daren’t compost them, so I probably bin at least four barrow loads of them every spring, then another barrow load come mid summer when they have their second burst. But it seemed such a waste. I dislike moving stuff from our land, as I know things like weeds tend to carry an awful lot of goodness, wrapped up in their spikes and stings and wafty leaves. So to search out a use for our dandelions. Earlier this year we tried the young leaves – a bit bitter for my taste, though I’ve heard cooking them down rids them of that. We’ve yet to try the young buds lightly fried in butter, but I also read that you can use the roots to make dandelion root coffee!

Today was that day. I’d just pruned another two plum trees, gradually working my way through the orchard work. I’d noticed the dandelions popping up after a rest of a month or so, and decided this was the moment to have a bash at home-made low-caffeine coffee.

dandelion_coffee_1Firstly I picked around 20 of the choicest roots. None of these dandelions were huge, so all the roots were between 8mm and 3mm in width. Then a darned good scrubbing with the potato brush, to get rid of the soil, and a top and tail.

dandelion_coffee_2Another rinse in cold water, and then finely chopped, to help them dry out quicker in the oven.

On to a metal dish and placed in the oven at 200C for around 30 minutes, and the smell was lovely! Suz said it smelled like a coffee shop – I’ll take that as a positive 🙂 However, opening the oven door let a bit of smoke into the room, so I turned the heat down to 100C for another 30 minutes or so. In reality, this was an awful waste of electric for such a small amount, but it was an experiment.

dandelion_coffee_3Once the small pieces were brittle under a spoon, I removed them from the oven and ground them in a bowl, using the back of a spoon. Again, on a larger scale you could use a decent sized pestle and mortar, or a blender. The resulting pieces, I assume, would be fine to store for future use. dandelion_coffee_4Having no idea how much I needed to use for a cup of coffee, I poured the entire bowl of grinds into a single cup cafetiere, covered with boiling water, and left for a couple of minutes. Then it was a quick plunge and pour, and sniff. It smelled a bit like coffee, a bit like chicory coffee, and a bit odd, which I assume might be the dandelion bit. Adding milk, to about a 50% mix (yes, it seems the amount of root I had could have provided for two cups rather than the one I made), and a couple of sweeteners, made a drink I was more than happy to take away with me!

dandelion_coffee_6So here I am, typing this up, having just downed my first cup of home-made dandelion root coffee!

A lot of hassle, as are most things made and not pre-bought, but on a grander scale could well be worth the effort. Dandelion coffee cake? Hmmm…

Beetroot & Chocolate Cake

I just have to go on record to day Boltardy beetroot are amazing. Here we are in April, and they are still happy in the ground from last year. Of course, we pickle them regularly, but it’s become a standing joke where recipes are concerned, as we’re adding them to almost every meal. “Just needs a  bit more beetroot” is starting to wear a bit thin. As a suprise, Suz found this recipe on BBC’s Goodfood website, and I’m unashamedly adding it here as it’s a great recipe, the cake was fantastic!

Blitz-and-Bake Chocolate Cake


  • 1 large cooked beetroot, abnout 175g in weight, roughly chopped
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200ml sunflower oil
  • 100g dark chocolate (not too bitter) chopped into pieces
  • crème fraîche or clotted cream, to serve


  1. Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Tip the beetroot into a food processor and blitz until chopped. Add a pinch of salt and the rest of the ingredients, except the oil and chocolate. When completely mixed (you may need to scrape the sides down once or twice), add the oil in a steady stream, as if you were making mayonnaise.
  2. When all the oil has been added, stir in the chocolate, then tip the mix into a lined 900g loaf tin. Cook for 1hr until an inserted skewer comes out practically clean. Leave the loaf to cool on a  rack. Serve in slices with the crème fraîche or clotted cream.