• Nattering about Nata

    I am not sure where the last two and a half weeks have gone, but wherever they have gone, they have gone very quickly.  They say that time flies when you are having fun.  I can’t say that the last two and a half weeks have been all fun (ill health is still plaguing me from time to time) but there have certainly been some pleasurable moments.

    Running is still hit and miss.  I have 72 miles left of my 1000 mile challenge.  Earlier in the year I was knocking the miles off at between 20 and 30 miles a week.  Now, if I am lucky, I am managing 12ish miles a week.  With the end of the year looming, I need to get a move on if I am going to succeed in my challenge.  I did manage my longest run so far since my illness this morning, 6.69 miles, so at least this helps towards reducing my miles this week.  The run was made more pleasurable by the fact that Jo and I decided to treat ourselves to a stay at Cowley Manor to try to relax for a couple of days so our run was in a new environment.  We are going to relax properly in about half an hour with some spa treatments – a back massage for Jo and and a back massage and facial for me (I am spending my Birthday voucher on my treatments).

    Work has been good, albeit that my hours have started to creep up again and a long week last week, with the additional pressure of catering for 50 people (a venison casserole with boulangerie potatoes) at a wine tasting session held after hours at Lynwood & Co on Friday definitely took a toll on my health.

    While I have thoroughly enjoyed extending the ‘sweet’ offering at Lynwood & Co, this together with being largely responsible for the Fairford takeaway offering (not the ideas, our Head Chef has to take credit for this) is quite a lot to keep on top of.  I know things will get easier as we decide on what we want to offer on a regular basis and I get quicker at the Fairford takeaway offering, but at the moment experimenting with new recipes and being slowed down by less that perfect health is making things a little more difficult than they should be.  Okay, I must sound like a ‘Moaning Minnie’.  I don’t mean to.  I am actually very happy, just very tired.

    Lets’s talk about something nice.  My experimenting over the last two plus weeks has included:

    • An afternoon baking gluten and dairy free cakes with Trex.  I tried an apricot, apple and walnut loaf; a lemon, almond and polenta cake and and lemon and lime drizzle cake.  The apricot, apple and walnut loaf and the lemon and lime drizzle cake were relatively successful but the lemon, almond and polenta cake was a little on the dry side.  I have however, found a delicious alternative to the latter in the form of a lemon, almond and olive oil cake from Belleau Kitchen, which is going down a treat with the customers.  This looks to become the official replacement to our orange polenta cake.

    • Cherry Bakewell and orange and cranberry muffins.  At the moment it looks like the cherry Bakewell muffins will become a fixture at both the Lechlade and Fairford cafes.  Although the Head Chef has decided that this is the muffin of choice, I have had a regular customer approach me twice now about the orange and cranberry muffins.  His first inquiry was to whether I was the person for making the muffins and if so when would I be making them again.  The second time, when he spied me putting the finishing touches to a batch of cherry Bakewell muffins, he inquired whether they were the orange and cranberry muffins.  When I explained that I was making cherry Bakewell muffins instead, he purchased two and said that he would give them a try.  I haven’t seen him since to see what his verdict was.

    • Various types of cookies, using Donna Hay’s chewy chocolate chip cookies as a base – milk chocolate cookies, M&M cookies, dark chocolate and hazelnut cookies etc.  It looks like the M&M cookies may become a regular at both the Lechlade and Fairford cafes.

    • On the home front, I made Nata yesterday.  Delicious cinnamon and lemon infused bake custard in flaky puff pastry.

    The sticky gingerbread loaf has already become a regular fixture at the Lechlade and Fairford cafes.  I am hoping that I will be able to zhoosh it up a bit for Christmas with a clementine glaze topped with pistachios and pomegranate seeds.

    With the above becoming regular fixtures at the two cafes, the cake trials are likely to come to an end soon until the season changes again.  I am however likely to be experimenting a bit at the end of the week again as Lynwood & Co are offering regular customers Christmas tipple and eats on Saturday as part of the turning on the Christmas lights in Lechlade.  I have some ideas, but I will need to discuss them with the Head Chef first.  Hopefully I will have something exciting to show next week.

     

  • Apple and almond cake

    I thought I would start sharing a few recipes on my site so that anyone who may be reading my blog can try some of the bakes I have tried, if they wish.  Here is a recipe for the apple and almond cake I made on Wednesday.  A moist, delicious cake, which is suitable for those looking for a dairy and gluten free option.  The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson.  Unfortunately I couldn’t take a photo of my cake as it had to be put out for the customers, so I have used Nigella Lawson’s photograph, so that you can see what the cake look like.  Happy baking!

    Ingredients:

    Apple puree:

    • 3 tart eating apples (such as Braeburns)
    • 1tbsp lemon juice
    • 2tsp caster sugar

    Cake:

    • Vegetable oil to grease tin
    • 8 large eggs
    • 325g ground almonds
    • 275g caster sugar
    • 1tbsp lemon juice
    • 50g flaked almonds
    • 1tsp icing sugar

    Method:

    • Peel, core and chop the apples roughly. Put them in a saucepan with the lemon juice and sugar and bring the pan to a bubble over a medium heat.  Cover the pan and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes or until you can mash the apple to a rough puree with a fork.  You will need 285g of puree.  Leave to cool.
    • Preheat the oven to Gas mark 180ºC; oil a 25cm springform tin with vegetable oil and line the bottom with baking parchment.
    • Put the cooled puree in the processor with the eggs, ground almonds, caster sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and blitz to a puree.  Pour into the prepared tin, sprinkle the flaked almonds on top, and bake for 45 minutes. Check after 35 minutes as it may not take the full 35 minutes to cook.
    • Put on a wire rack to cool slightly, then spring open.  The cake is best served slightly warm, though is still good cold.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.
  • Let them eat cake

    Okay, so it has been a while since I last wrote.  I am not sure why I haven’t, as there have been times when I have had time on my hands, but when I have, I have been trying to rest.

    Since I last wrote, I started running again.  I managed to run about half my normal distance last week (12 miles).  I can’t say that it was comfortable but it was good to be out and about again.  Unfortunately, my health has not been great this week so as a precaution I decided not to run.  I have also been back at work.  In fact, I have worked six days in a row.  Possibly more than I should have done at this stage of my recovery, but I now have five days off in a row, so all is good.

    I am certainly enjoying my new duties, albeit that it can be a little lonely at times.  I am in the back kitchen, while the rest of my colleagues, including the Head Chef, are front of house.  Maybe I need to get a radio to keep me company.  I am working fewer hours each day, which is also good, albeit less lucrative.

    Not only have my duties and hours changed, but on the cooking front, I am now responsible for getting the Fairford takeaway orders ready first thing in the morning (can only happen with a 6am start).  We are now making weekly wraps, salads and grain pots.   In addition to being responsible for ensuring that the Fairford orders are ready on time, I am responsible for the majority of prep for the Lechlade cafe, as well as expanding the cake offer.    The latter is what I have been trying to focus on over the last week or so.  I have tried the following bakes:

    • Baked caramel nut slice
    • Chocolate and orange loaf cake
    • Pistachio and lemon loaf cake

    • Lime and coconut loaf cake
    • Sticky date and walnut loaf cake
    • Apple and almond cake (gluten and dairy free)
    • Sticky gingerbread loaf
    • Passion fruit and coconut cake

    As it was Halloween this week, I also tried pumpkin and chocolate muffins, pumpkin pie and chocolate Halloween cookies, using Fred and Friend cookie cutters.  Most of my bakes have been relatively successful, albeit that some have been more popular with customers than others, but my pumpkin and chocolate muffins were a disaster.  Okay, maybe not an unmitigated disaster – the flavour was okay but the texture was wrong – but enough of a disaster that I could not serve them to customers.  I will experiment with a few more cake ideas, especially gluten and dairy free cakes, but then I need to develop a smaller repertoire of cakes which I can bake on a more regular basis.  In the meantime I will continue to enjoying experimenting.