Category Archives: Lambert Nagle Cooks!

Carrot Cake for Comic Relief

Dame Edna was all set for a lovely retirement of book clubs and chardonnay in Moonee Ponds, Melbourne, when she got the call from the dame of baking himself, Paul Hollywood. If Dame Edna can steal the show for the Great British Comic Relief Bakeoff then sure as hell, I can make carrot cake.

But baking does require the decorative skills of a good plasterer – or of a woman who loves the colour wisteria so much she matches her hair with her icing. And sadly these are skills I have never mastered. In fact presentation just doesn’t come easily at all to someone who hated art class so much that I used to cry until the ordeal was over.

But then there is the science and precision bit in baking, which I can do when pushed. But it’s the requirement for exact measurements that puzzles me most when reading American cookbooks, as measurements are given by volume, not weight. Even Dame Martha Stewart does this, and she’s such a perfectionist she probably stencils the insides of her rubbish bin. Yet how much exactly is a cup of grated carrot? Surely that depends on how tightly you pack the cup?

This recipe, adapted from Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins The Silver Palate Cookbook2015-02-17 11.13.37-1, is given in volume and weight measurements.

CARROT CAKE

360g/3 cups unbleached flour
360g/3 cups granulated sugar
375 ml 1 ½ cups rice bran oil or a similar flavourless vegetable oil
1tsp salt
1tbs baking soda
1tbs ground cinnamon
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1tbs vanilla extract
180gm/ 1 ½ cups walnut pieces
180gm/ 1 ½ cups shredded coconut
180 gm/ 1 ½ cups grated carrot
100gm/ ¾ cup unsweetened and drained tinned pineapple

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 165C/350F (fan assisted). Grease two 8-inch springform pans.
2. Sift dry ingredients into food mixer bowl. Add oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in walnuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple with large metal spoon.
3. Divide mixture evenly and pour into the prepared pans. Bake for 50 minutes, until the cake has pulled away from sides and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
4. Cool on a cake rack for at least two hours. Fill cake and frost the sides with cream-cheese frosting. Then decorate the hell out of it, if you’re the arty type.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
8 oz cream cheese
6 tbs butter at room temperature
360g/3 cups icing/confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice of ½ a lemon
1. In the food mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
2. Slowly sift in icing sugar and continue to beat until mixture is smooth and without lumps.
3. Add the lemon juice and vanilla.

So what could possibly go wrong? Plenty – as I found out when I went to put the frosting on. The cake kept sliding off as the layers were different sizes. So I slapped on more of the frosting to hold the two layers together. Then I bunged the cake in the fridge to try to see if that would help cement it together. It worked – until I had to get the cake out and cut it. As it had serious subsidence, I fobbed it off on the family, who were far too polite to say anything about it’s leaning tower of Pisa tendencies.

After my own baking comedy of errors, I’m grateful to all those willing contestants, prepared to make complete tits of themselves on national television.

The final of the Great Comic Relief Bakeoff is on Wednesday 4th March and if you’re in the UK why not sling them some money, as Comic Relief is a great cause. Text £5 to– BAKE (70005).

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Lambert Nagle Cooks Rhubarb Pie

ImageI’d be lying to you if I told you I grew this rhubarb.  Nor did I cycle down to the farmers’ market to buy it either because it’s not on until next weekend. I’d forgotten this, of course while I was in Sainsbury’s, impulse buying these glossy pink stalks. But when I realised, it was a relief – one less thing to feel guilty about.  There’s enough guilt-ridden angst in the world without that….

One example of which is that while I was trying to get to Somerset from Hampshire for a 10.30am start yesterday, my GPS decided it would be a really good idea to take a scenic shortcut via Glastonbury.  Only it hasn’t been watching the news, has it? The Somerset Levels, an area of around 20 square miles, usually all green fields and countryside has been underwater for weeks. And all I could think about – as I hurtled down the umpteenth country road only to come to yet another road block was, Woe is Me. When I should have been thinking about what it must be like for the locals after all these weeks. It hasn’t been possible to drive in or out of some of these places since before Christmas.

So I abandoned the GPS, pulled myself together and got out my Google Map and found my way and even managed to get to Taunton barely five minutes late.  So I hope you’ll forgive me today for feeling a little tired today after my 200 mile drive and just this once forgetting to check where the ingredients for Sunday lunch came from. It’s only rhubarb, innit?  Why would anyone go to the trouble of importing a vegetable (yes, it’s not even a fruit) that will remain forever unfashionable? Because unlike kale you can’t whizz rhubarb into a smoothie –  in its raw state it gives you terrible belly ache…

So I suppose I should be including a recipe for Humble Pie rather than Rhubarb Pie, when it turns out I was wrong and it wasn’t grown in the UK at all but in The Netherlands. Who knew rhubarb was even worth cultivating under glass, being put on a lorry and then sailing across the North Sea to where we grow loads of the stuff ourselves….

But I’d got it home by then and was hankering for old-fashioned rhubarb pie – like the one my grandmother used to make.  But that one was really more like a rhubarb sandwich – layered between buttery shortcrust pastry.  You could get away with pudding like that in the 1960s because you’d probably dug the rhubarb up yourself, walked to the shops for the rest of the ingredients or taken the bus and then lugged the shopping home, like she used to do.  But this is the 21st century and although I did happen to walk to the supermarket, I’m not going to rub that one in. Besides, you’ve probably been to the gym this morning.

And if you have. you aren’t going to thank me for a double whammy of pastry – even professional rugby players aren’t allowed pastry, it’s supposed to be that bad for you… But if you fancy rhubarb pie for Sunday lunch my solution is to have just one layer of pastry and put it on top and cut down on the sugar in the filling.  But then again, you might have had it up to here with parsimony and plan to eat it with custard or clotted cream or ice-cream.

RHUBARB PIE

Preheat the fan-assisted oven to 180C.

PASTRY

2oz ice cold butter or vegetable shortening

2oz fine wholemeal

2oz plain flour (or use all plain flour if you want it to look less rustic)

milk for brushing over the uncooked pastry

caster sugar for sprinkling on top before baking

Up to 1 tbs water added a drop at a time

METHOD

Cube butter, add flour and combine in a food processor and pulse until the consistency of fine breadcrumbs

Add the water one drop at a time and pulse until the pastry combines in a ball and leaves the sides of the bowl clean

Rest the pastry in the fridge for half an hour while you make the filling

FRUIT

600gm Rhubarb chopped into batons about half an inch wide

150g Sugar or the equivalent of xylitol

2tsp Arrowroot

1tsp dried ginger

METHOD

Roll the rhubarb in the sugar and arrowroot and then put in a 22cm shallow pie dish

Bake the rhubarb for 15 minutes or until it’s beginning to soften.  Check the consistency. If the fruit is too juicy you will need to drain some liquid off – as the last thing we want is the pastry lid to collapse into the fruit.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness that you can roll over a rolling pin. Place on top of the pie carefully. You can crimp the pastry at the sides if you can be arsed or want to be fancy. Brush lightly with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp. Serves 6 city slickers or 4 in the West Country, as I was reminded yesterday.

Lambert Nagle Cooks! – Crunchy Toasted Muesli

Crunchy Toasted Muesli

Crunchy Toasted Muesli

My favourite brand of muesli is packaged as a masterpiece of marketing, pretending as it does, to hail from a bucolic, idealised region of South West England, harking back sometime to around 1895– where by day the villagers frolicked around in their white smocks Morris dancing and by night were so tanked up on cider they don’t care if they do look like prats in their white leggings with bells on.

As if.  No doubt on an industrial estate far from the countryside, food workers in hairnets will be toiling away, mixing rolled oats with the best of them, just so that I can have my breakfast fix.

I realised though that I was shelling out £3.79 a packet due to this rural fantasy, and it’s got to stop.  They say that there are ’16 glorious bowlfuls’ in every packet, but I can’t stick to the serving size of 46g because after a couple of brazil nuts and an almond or two, all you’ve got left is a measly portion of grit.  So I have to have 60g, which even then barely gets me through to lunchtime.

In the interests of economy and because apparently, even dried fruit is a no-no because of its high sugar content, I’ve decided to going back to making my own. And because those Atlantic storms are causing havoc on both sides of the Pond, I’ve decided that toasted muesli is the one thing that will get me through the winter – that and New Zealand pinot noir (but not necessarily at the same meal).

This recipe is one of Australian chef Bill Granger’s which I’ve adapted. And because I’ve used a version of his recipe here, it seems only fair to tell you that you no longer have to fly all the way to Sydney to sample some of Bill’s food as he now has an eatery in London.  Hooray!

Granger & Co, 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2SB.  I have no idea how the food is as the only time I got to visit the queue in this no booking restaurant was out the door and down the street.  But it must be good if the very well-heeled locals in that neighbourhood are willing to wait in line for a table. I’ve been a devotee of Bill since he first opened his first café in Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia.

Darlinghurst is still cool (and a bit grungy) and is still recognisably the same neighbourhood as I knew in my early twenties when I lived in Macleay Street, down the road.  It’s still (thankfully) as casual a place to breakfast as it always was, which is great as I’ve got a feeling that I’d feel a bit out of place at his London joint.

CRUNCHY TOASTED MUESLI

INGREDIENTS

300 g/3 cups rolled porridge oats

125 ml/half cup unsweetened apple juice

2tbs rice bran oil or a similar flavourless vegetable oil

80g/2 handfuls unpeeled almonds

125g/1cup sunflower seeds

30g/quarter cup flaked coconut

40g/quarter cup sesame seeds

1tsp cinnamon

 125g/2 large handfuls brazil nuts

Fresh fruit, yoghurt or milk to serve

 METHOD

 Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 2.  Place all the ingredients, except for the brazil nuts in a large bowl and stir well to combine.  Spread the mixture evenly over a large baking tray and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Stir and add in the brazil nuts, stirring again to ensure the nuts don’t get too brown.  Bake for further 15 minutes.

I know from this photograph it looks as though I should be serving this up to Merlin and Cavan, the two horses I ride, but believe me, you don’t have to be a four-legged vegan to enjoy it.

Lambert Nagle Cooks!

I love flying in to Singapore.  It’s a wonderful foodie destination and you can happily eat your way around a fusion of the cuisines of Indonesia, Malaysia, India and China.  So you can imagine how cheated I felt on my last visit, when I was nursing the tail end of the worst bout of food poisoning I’d ever experienced.  You know, the one where you get the blinding headaches in the middle of the night, where no amount of Paracetamol and icepacks to soothe your fevered brow make any difference whatsoever?

Happily on this recent visit I was fighting fit.  Only, the snag was that this time there was no stopover and we had to fly straight through. So much for catching up with friends or getting out amongst the hawker markets – we barely had time to do more than grab a shower and a cup of coffee as we changed planes. 

So I did the next best thing.  I found this recipe for Rendang in The Straits Times and we made it as a team effort when we got home, in my desperate attempt to bring a little of the heat and spice of South East Asia to cheer up the rain-sodden British winter we have returned to.

Rendang originated in West Sumatra, Indonesia, from a ceremonial dish that took all day to cook, to produce what is almost a dry paste. Malaysia and Singapore make a version that to my mind is just as good, takes half the time and the dish has a lot more sauce, which you can mop up with rice.

You don’t have to use meat to make Rendang.  Even if Renang purists don’t agree, you can make it with tofu, prawns or chicken but adjust the cooking times accordingly. 

Incidentally, this recipe takes no prisoners on the chilli front.  If you can’t stand too much heat, then use the mildest chillies you can find.  I’m convinced that hot chillies, like chocolate are the culinary equivalent of happy pills.  And on a New Year’s Day, when even these most seasoned of walkers have decided to give the great outdoors the flick and go instead to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, you need all the happiness you can get.

 BEEF RENDANG

 INGREDIENTS

100 g chilli paste (I used Mexican chipotle paste)

8 shallots

6 cloves garlic

3 cm ginger

1 heaped tsp ground turmeric

3 cm galangal

2 heaped tbs ground coriander

2 heaped tbs ground cumin

2 tbs toasted grated coconut (ground into a paste)

4 tbs oil

2 stalks lemongrass, sliced into 5cm pieces with stems smashed

1 cinnamon stick

3 star anise

3 cloves

1 kg beef, cut into chunks

200ml coconut milk

400ml water

2sp tamarind pulp, soaked in warm water

3 kaffir lime leaves

salt to taste

1 tsp sugar

METHOD

Process the first nine ingredients in a blender until they form a fine paste.

Heat oil in a large wok or saucepan and fry the lemongrass, cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves for 30 seconds.

Add the paste and fry for up to 10 minutes until fragrant and the oil separates from the paste.

Add beef and stir over high heat until evenly browned.

Pour in coconut milk and stir well.  Cook for 10 minutes until the coconut milk has reduced.(Incidentally, don’t be tempted to use low fat – it’s disgusting and the dish will be watery and horrible).

Add the water, stir and bring back to a simmer.

Add tamarind juice and lime leaves.

Cover and simmer until meat is tender but not falling apart.  This will take up to 3 hours.

 (You could, at this stage transfer the contents to a slow cooker and use that instead, but don’t ask me how they work, I’m scared of them.  My niece’s one exploded when she was out at work and she had to fish out bits of glass from the home cooked dinner that by then was probably smeared half way up the walls….)

You have to stir this every now and again as otherwise it will stick to the bottom.

Turn heat off and add salt and sugar just before serving with hot rice.

Serves four to five

Adapted from Adlena Wong’s recipe, featured in Singapore Cooks, The Straits Times, 30 December, 2013.Image