Gluten free banana and blueberry cake

Banana and blueberry cake

Banana and blueberry cake

Even on holiday, I can’t help myself and still end up baking! I don’t like seeng food go to waste and had some fruit which was becoming over-ripe so I decided to put it to good use. This is best made with those bananas which are going brown at the bottom of your fruit bowl. I also had a large punnet of blueberries that needed eating so decided to throw some of those into the mix aswell. You could easily use other fruit that you have, such as raspberries or chopped up nuts.

I made this cake with gluten free flour as I’m going to leave it in the freezer here for when my sister comes next week. Her youngest son has Coeliac disease so, as this cake is gluten free, they can all enjoy it. If you don’t need a GF cake, simply use standard plain flour and omit the milk (I only add this as GF flour is quite dry).

I didn’t have any of my usual baking ingredients with me but this cake is so simple it didn’t matter. I even baked it in a roasting tin!

Ingredients:

  • 8oz gluten free plain flour (I use Dove’s Farm which is easily available in supermarkets)
  • Half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 4oz soft margarine or butter
  • 7oz granulated sugar
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed up
  • 6oz blueberries (this is an approximate amount, more or less is fine)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons milk

You’ll also need an 8 inch square tin, or similar, greased and lined with greaseproof paper.

What you need to do:

Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C (fan oven).

Sieve the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Add the margarine/butter and cut into pieces with a table knife. Then rub the butter into the flour using the tips of your fingers, until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Stir in the sugar then add the banana and gently fold them into the dry ingredients.

Make a well in the centre of the mix and add the eggs along with the milk. Also tip in the blueberries (or fruit of your choice). Gently stir the eggs, milk and fruit into the other ingredients. Don’t over mix but make sure there are no pockets of flour left.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.

Cook for 1 hour then turn the oven down to 150 degrees and bake for a further 30 minutes. If the top starts to brown too much, loosely cover with foil – I forgot to do this so mine came out quite brown on top! I don’t think it matters though as it just adds a lovely crunch to this soft and fruity cake. The cake is cooked when a skewer (or fork) comes out clean.

Leave to cool completely in the tin before turning out then peel off the greaseproof paper.

Gluten free banana and blueberry cake

This would also be delicious with some lemon icing. Simply sift some icing sugar into a bowl, add some lemon juice and mix until you have a pourable icing. Drizzle over the cold cake. Yummy!

Quick and easy fruit pie

This recipe really is so easy. I know this because my 5 year old has made it several times! I made tonight as a quick pudding for dinner because I had some fruit which needed using up. You can fill your pie with pretty much any fruit you like. The original recipe was just for cherries but tonight I mixed cherries with some nectarines which were getting over-ripe. You could use peaches and raspberries or blackberries and pears.

I made the pastry from scratch for this pie but that’s just because I enjoy doing this. For speed and to make this even more simple, just use shop bought shortcrust pastry. You can even buy it ready rolled to save even more time!

If you want to make your own pastry, sieve 8oz plain flour into a bowl. Add in 4oz cold butter or margarine. Cut the fat into pieces in the flour using a table knife. Using the tips of your fingers, rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and pour in a tablespoon or so of cold water. With your knife, start stirring the crumbs into the water. Continue until the mixture starts to form large lumps – you may need to add a little extra water but do this in very small amounts or you will end up with wet pastry. Now use your hands to bring the pastry together into a ball. Don’t knead the pastry or it will become tough. Wrap in clingflim and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

What you will need for your pie:

  • Fruit of your choice.
  • Pastry (either home-made or shop bought – see above).
  • 4 tablespoons of demerara sugar (or normal caster sugar).
  • A handful of porridge oats.
  • 1 beaten egg or a little milk to glaze your pie.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees centigrade.

Prepare the fruit filling. For my pie, I sliced 2 nectarines and de-stoned a small punnet of cherries. Place your fruit into a bowl and sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of the demerara sugar (if you don’t have this, just use normal sugar). Set the fruit and sugar aside while you get the pastry ready.

To make the pie base, roll out your pastry into a rough circle on a floured work surface. It should be a few millimetres thick. If you are using pre-rolled pastry, cut out a rough circle. Grease a baking tray or oven-proof dish. Place your pastry circle onto the tray or dish. Sprinkle the porridge oats over the centre of the pastry, leaving space around the edges.

Sprinkle the oats over the pastry.

Sprinkle the oats over the pastry.

Now tip the fruit you prepared earlier on top of the oats. Again, leave space around the edge of the pastry circle.

Place the fruit over the oats.

Place the fruit over the oats.

Brush the edge of the pastry circle with some of the beaten egg or milk. This will act as your glue for the next stage.

Start gathering the pastry into pleats over the edge of the fruit. It really doesn’t matter how neat this is as it’s meant to look rustic (that’s my excuse anyway!). You will be left with an open top to the middle of the pie – it is meant to be like this!

Start gathering the pastry in pleats.

Start gathering the pastry in pleats.

Your pie will have an open top in the middle.

Your pie will have an open top in the middle.

Brush the pleated pastry with some more of the beaten egg or milk. Sprinkle the remaining demerara sugar over the top of the pastry and fruit. This will give a nice crunchy texture to your cooked pie.

Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Put your pie in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and the fruit is cooked. Leave to cool slightly before cutting into wedges and serving with cream, custard, fruit sauce or some ice-cream.

Cook until golden brown.

Cook until golden brown.

Easy strawberry jam

It’s that time of year where the PYO fields are full of my favourite summer fruit and I love spending an afternoon with my family gathering punnets of luscious red strawberries. It’s so satisfying to come home with boxes full of fruit ready to be turned into all sorts of delicious things. And some are always saved to eat fresh or decorate the tops of cupcakes.

Fruit bonanza!

Fruit bonanza!

In our house we really love jam and enjoy spending an afternoon in the kitchen turning freshly picked fruit into jars of shiny jam. I store them away in a dark cupboard then, when I open a jar in the middle of winter, I immediately think of long sunny days and taste of summer.

Jars of home made jam also make wonderful gifts, especially if you cover the lid with a a circle of pretty fabric and tie it on with some ribbon. Or nestle a few jars in some tissue paper and place them in a special basket.

Once you’ve made your jam, there are all sorts of things you can use it for. Simply spread on toast, crumpets or bread. But also as a filling for cakes, such as a classic Victoria sponge or as a secret centre in a batch of cupcakes. Of course, there are jam tarts which are definitely a kids favourite (I think I must be a child at heart as they’re one of my favourites too!). And one of my husbands all time favourites, Bakewell tart.

I know a lot of people are a bit scared of making jam, thinking that it’s too complicated or that there’s too many things which can go wrong. But it really is a lot easier than you might have thought and, as long as you follow the recipe, you will be just fine. I have had times where my jam hasn’t set properly and, when this has happened, I’ve just poured it all back in the pan, brought it up to the boil and cooked it for a little longer. Recently, I’ve changed from using standard sugar to special jam sugar and find this is much more reliable and also quicker which results in a brighter more flavoursome jam. You can find this easily in the baking section of the supermarket.

Sterilising your jars

Before you start making your jam, you will need to ensure you have plenty of clean, sterilised jars. There are two basic ways of doing this, both of which are easy to do.

Firstly, you can place your jars and lids in the dishwasher and run these through on a hot cycle. Then, place them on a baking tray and put them in an oven heated to 100 degrees centigrade. This will keep them warm until you are ready to pot the jam. It is important that you don’t pour hot jam into cold jars or they are likely to crack!

Secondly, you can wash the jars by hand in hot soapy water. Don’t dry them, just place them straight onto the baking tray. For this method, you will then need to put them in an oven heated to 170 degrees centigrade for 10 minutes. After this time, turn the oven down to 100 degrees and leave the jars to keep warm until your jam is ready.

I tend to use recycled jars from previous batches of jam and also leftover ones from supermarket sauces etc. You can buy brand new jars from places like Hobbycraft, Lakeland, The Range etc if you like but I prefer to recycle ones I already have.

Ingredients

The following is enough to make 3-4 jars of jam. I tend to make larger batches than this and, if you want to do the same, just increase the amounts depending on how much fruit you have. When you do this, you need to ensure the proportions are correct.

  • 800g (1 3/4lb) fresh strawberries. This is the weight of the fruit after you’ve removed the stalk/leaves and is equivalent to about 900g (2lb) unprepared fruit. You don’t need to wash the fruit. If there are any pieces of fruit that have sand or soil on them, brush this off with a piece of kitchen paper.
  • 1kg jam sugar. I tend to use silver spoon brand.
  • A knob of butter.

You will also need 3-4 clean, sterilised jars, a potato masher (preferably a metal one), a large saucepan, a wooden spoon and some sort of timer. Your pan should be the biggest you have as the jam will bubble up a lot during cooking. I also find it helpful to have a ladle and a heat-proof jug for potting the jam.

Recipe

1) Place your strawberries in the large saucepan. Squash them with the potato masher. This will break up the fruit and allow the juices to start running. I like jam with largish pieces of strawberries in it so I don’t squash the fruit too much. If you prefer a smoother jam, you can mash the fruit more.

2) Tip your sugar ontop of the strawberries and place the pan onto your hob.

3) On a gentle heat, stir the fruit and sugar together whilst stirring continuously. Do not allow the jam to boil. You need to make sure that all the sugar has dissolved before moving onto the next stage. To start with, the mixture will feel ‘gritty’ from the granules of sugar. You can tell that the sugar has dissolved as the jam will feel smooth when you stir it and there are no grains of sugar on the back of the spoon.

Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.

Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.

4) Add the knob of butter to the mixture.

5) Increase the heat to high, continue stirring all the time and bring the jam to a full rolling boil. The jam will bubble vigorously, will rise in the pan and you will not be able to stir it down. It is very important to get the jam to this stage otherwise it will not set!

6) Once you have reached the stage described above, set the timer for 4 minutes only. Do not alter this time, even if you are making a larger batch. Keep stirring during this time but do be careful as the hot jam may splutter out of the pan.

7) When the 4 minutes have passed, remove the jam from the heat and take your warm, sterilised jars out of the oven. You need to pot the jam straight away or it will begin to set in the saucepan – not what you want!

8) My method for potting the jam is to ladle some of the jam from the pan into the heat-proof jug. Then carefully and slowly pour the jam from the jug into the jars. Repeat until you have used up all of the jam. You need to fill the jars almost to the top.

If you have a bit of extra jam that isn’t enough to fill a jar, just pour this into a ramekin dish or a small bowl. This is like the cook’s perk and a little taster but needs to be eaten soon because it isn’t sealed – not that this is ever a problem in my house!!

Ladle the jam into a heat proof jug.

Ladle the jam into a heat proof jug.

Your jam is ready to pot.

Your jam is ready to pot.

9) Once you have filled the jars, hold each one with a tea towel or oven glove and tightly screw on the lid.

Tightly screw the lids onto the jars.

Tightly screw the lids onto the jars.

10) Leave the jars until completely cold, which normally means overnight for me.

11) Once cold, label the jam so you know what it is and when you made it.

Label your jars of jam.

Label your jars of jam.

And that’s it, your jam is made!! I’m sure that was easier than you thought and you now have some delicious jars of strawberry jam, which will taste much nicer than anything you can buy in the shops.

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I’ll be uploading some other easy jam recipes very soon so keep an eye on my blog. Happy preserving!