Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge April 2010: Traditional British Pudding

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

The required elements of this challenge are:

1) to make a suet pudding using real suet or as close a replacement as you can manage or is acceptable to you; and
2) to cook it by steaming or if you want to be even more traditional by boiling tied up in a cloth.

When I first read of this months challenge, I must confess that I felt very little enthusiasm. As a Brit who has never really gone in for traditional steamed puddings (give me a crumble any day), I wondered if I should just sit this one out... but I missed last months challenge... darn it... I hadn't meant to miss last month's challenge, in fact I got as far as making the marmalade, it's just that before I knew it posting day had been and gone... So anyway, I resolved not to duck out of this one and started to trawl through recipe after recipe for inspiration.

Ah yes! The delicious lemon marmalade I'd made! Kind of killing two birds with one stone, I thought ;-)

I then stumbled upon Allegra McEvedy's steamed marmalade & poppy seed pudding recipe


and yes, I was sooo excited that I couldn't wait to get cracking! No leaving things to the last minute this month, and MIL was coming for a visit so I had the perfect excuse to make it - hurrah!

I was so proud to carry this magnificent pudding to the table, glistening on the plate before being drenched in custard (naturally) - there was not a scrap left over - MIL had thirds! Esther, I'm so sorry that I ever doubted that I would enjoy this challenge. This recipe is now bookmarked and will be used time and time again!

Steamed Lemon Marmalade and Poppy Seed Pudding

8 tablespoons marmalade (I used my own home-made lemon marmalade)
4 tablespoons golden syrup (can't get it here, so I used mizu ame)
small knob of butter for greasing
150g flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3 slices thick white bread, no crusts, torn into small pieces
120g suet (unavailable here, so I used shortening)
150g caster sugar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
pinch of salt
a few drops of vanilla
2 eggs
220ml milk

Use the butter to grease a two-litre pudding basin. Spoon half the marmalade and all the golden syrup into the bottom and give it a stir.

In a big mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, pieces of torn bread, suet, sugar, poppy seeds and salt.

Separately, in a smaller bowl, whisk up the eggs, vanilla essence, milk and the last of the marmalade. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the egg mix in, gradually combining to make a smooth batter.

If the batter has come out very thick, add a splash more milk to loosen it up a touch, to what is called "dropping consistency". Then ladle it on top of the marmalade in the bottom of the basin.

Loosely cover with greaseproof paper and then a layer of foil and secure with string just under the lip of the basin (the greaseproof stops it sticking and the foil stops water getting in).

Arrange a few pastry cutters, or spoons or anything metal and reasonably low, in the bottom of a saucepan big enough to hold the basin, plus water to come about halfway up. Don't worry if you can't get a lid on – tight-fitting foil is OK too.

Sit the basin on your metal arrangement, pour in hot water to halfway up, cover with a lid/tight foil and bring to a boil. Once you see steam, turn it down to a simmer and, apart from checking the water level every now and then, forget about it for two hours.

Turning it out is simple and impressive – just run a knife around the edge, and turn upside down.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Deka Dora

On Monday, a friend called by with a box of the most humongous dorayaki I have ever seen! For the uninitiated, a dorayaki is a type of sweet cake, made up of two pancake-like sponges which are sandwiched together with red bean paste. They are the snack of choice for the very-much loved, robot-cat-from-the-future superhero, Doraemon :-)

She had bought them fresh from a bakery (Morikami-ya in Kokubunji), and advised me to leave them for a day before eating. I had to beat the boys of with a stick to stop them getting at them, their eyes nearly popped out of their heads when they saw how big they were. Unfortunately, by the time they got home from school the next day, eagerly awaiting their treat, I was dealing with a very, very pukey baby and the dorayaki were almost forgotten... until this morning. I honestly would not have even considered eating these for breakfast had it not been for a friend posting me a link to Bill Cosby's chocolate cake sketch:


After seeing that, I felt entirely justified in serving this nutritionally balanced meal before school :-)

Check out the filling!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Just popping in!

I don't want you to think I've gone quiet on you again, but things have been busy and blah, blah, blah... I spent ages over the weekend trying to set up my Etsy shop, finally managing to list my first item yesterday - woo hoo! There's still a lot of tweaking to do on the site, but I'd been putting it off for weeks so was determined to get it up and running (I'm so impatient).

Just so that you know that I've been at least thinking of writing, here's a couple of very quick recipes for you :-)

OK, so the first isn't really a recipe... more like an idea that I wished I'd have thought of sooner! Not sure what to call it... Chocobanana Mush? Anyway, take an unpeeled banana and wrap the whole thing in cling film. Microwave for about 2 minutes, depending of the size, then spit the skin open and sprinkle with a little cocoa or even drinking chocolate. Voila!

I made this for the children, so took them out for the skins for serving. I can't normally get the boys to eat bananas, but these disappeared as soon as they arrived at the table :-)

Next up are some kabocha dango (Japanese pumpkin dumplings). I had a friend coming to visit this morning and wanted to make some kind of snack, but I know that she has a lot of allergies and so needed to play things safe with the ingredients. These were a doddle to make, really quick, and looked very pretty.

Kabocha Dango

200g kabocha, peeled, seeds removed and cut into chunks
100g rice flour
120 - 150ml water
kuromitsu (or molasses/treacle)

Put the kabocha in a bowl, cover and microwave for about 4 minutes, until soft. While still hot, mash with a fork and allow to cool a little. Gradually mix in the rice flour, then carefully add the water until it forms a fairly soft dough. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Roll teaspoons of the dough into balls and gently squeeze with your thumb and finger to flatten and make a dent in the middle. Drop into the boiling water and cook for about 15 seconds, the remove them and place in a bowl of iced water to cool. Serve the dango drizzled with kuromitsu.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


Remember the nappy cakes I showed you earlier in the year?

I had so many people telling me that they thought I should sell them that I am testing the water by introducing them in a new blog:


Please take a look and let me know what you think, and kindly spread the word!

Yoroshiku ne!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


Last night, as I called in to Jusco to pick up necessities for the next day, it occurred to me that I could actually indulge in a leisurely browse at the book shop (without having to be concerned about what my two year old might get up to if I were to take my eyes of her for more than a split second - her favourite new pass time is ripping paper into shreds!). Naturally, I headed straight for the cookery section and spent a good half hour trying to whittle down the small mountain of books in front of me to just one, oh decisions, decisions!

I do have plenty of gorgeous (yes, cookery books can be gorgeous) recipe books that I brought with me from the UK, but here so many of the ingredients can be hard to find (like self raising flour or golden syrup), and so I was after something Japanese. Torn between a book on how to make wagashi (those delicate, sweet morsels that get served with green tea), a book on baking with vegetables, and another book on the various uses of goma (sesame), I eventually settled on this:

It pretty much covers all of the above, plus has the advantage of being fairly simple to understand :-) Gosh, I am amazed at how many of the 363 recipes I can't wait to cook! Buckwheat sable biscuits? Kinako (roasted soya bean flour) and goma cookies? Sweet potato doughnuts? Obviously, I need to go shopping again...

Of course, I wanted to try something out straight away, so chose a simple sweetcorn bread (actually, it's more like a slightly savoury cake) that could be made in the rice cooker (remember, my temperamental oven has a strong dislike of baking):

This was so easy (and delicious) and turned out exactly like the photo in the book - yay!

Sweetcorn Bread

50g sugar
2 eggs
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered cheese (I used Parmesan)
100g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon milk
100g sweetcorn, drained (defrosted if using frozen)
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Whisk together the sugar and eggs, then add the salt and cheese. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then stir in the milk, sweetcorn and butter. Grease the rice cooker pan with a little butter and pour the batter in. Cook on the white rice setting, checking to see if it is cooked through as soon as it beeps to tell you it is done (if not, press the switch again and cook for an extra few minutes), and turn out onto a rack to cool.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! So, did you all eat your body weight in chocolate? I think M did :-)

This week has been somewhat difficult, won't go into details here but let's just say that today wasn't quite the fun holiday that I had planned. All things considered, I amazed myself by not eating the last of the brownies left over from lunch!

Of course, this morning we were at church. A few weeks ago we were all given a small wooden cross, and were asked to carry it with us and think about what it means to us. We were then to express our thoughts in some way, for example by decorating the cross, writing a poem, painting a picture, etc., and to bring it to church today. This was my contribution (sadly, nobody else brought theirs along):

The brownies were for a treat after lunch. I chose this recipe because I just happened to have everything needed in the cupboard (I couldn't face shopping with all three kids in tow), it uses cocoa rather than melted chocolate. I'd never used this recipe before, but it's a keeper :-) Rich, fudgy, intensely chocolaty...

Fudgy Coconut Brownies

100g cocoa
250g butter
500g golden caster sugar
4 eggs , beaten
100g self-raising flour (which I can't get here, so I used plain flour and a teaspoon of baking powder)
100g desiccated coconut

Gently melt the cocoa, butter and sugar in a large saucepan, stirring so the mixture doesn't catch. Allow to cool slightly then stir in the eggs, little by little, followed by the flour and coconut. Pour into a 21cm square, non-stick (or lined) tin and bake at 180c for about 45 minutes (check after 30 minutes and cover with another piece of baking parchment if the crust is browning too much). DO NOT OVERCOOK (it is much better to slightly under cook them than to end up with dry, cakey brownies)! Leave to cool in the tin, then carefully lift out and cut into squares. If you can wait for them to cool completely, unlike me, then you will get better shaped brownies than the one you see here in the above photo ;-)

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Still here

No, I haven't been in hiding, nor sulking this time. Just been rather busy, and the school holidays have meant that by the time the kids are in bed, I am worn out and unable to string a sentence together, let alone remember what we've been up to. Back to school on Tuesday... WOOO HOOO! It's not that I don't enjoy having them all at home, not having to get up at 6.15am, etc., it's just that it's sooo noisy, and the house is a complete pigsty! Oh, and as they boys' favourite way to pass time is by playing 'explorers' out in the paddy fields, the washer has been running almost non-stop. Anyway, we have had rather a fun time over the last few weeks. For a start, we have added to our family:

Making their debut here today are Polly and Penny! Actually, their names could well change. K wants to call them Tinky and Winky (I don't think so), I quite like Thelma and Louise or Thomasina and Geraldine (Tom and Jerry), the boys want to name them after themselves... Any good suggestions?

I'm still trying to eat healthier, and came across some unusual choccie treats - vegetable chocolate! There was a whole range of different flavours, I picked up the following two to try out:

On the left is spinach and white chocolate, and on the right we have carrot and mandarin orange in dark chocolate. The verdict? A waste of money and calories! The carrot one was OK, couldn't taste much of the filling at all. The spinach one was absolutely disgusting, I took a small nibble and then passed it on to the children (who wolfed it down in seconds - I didn't tell them that it was made with spinach)!

I'd much rather eat my veggies in curry form - why ruin good chocolate? Speaking of curry, I made this healthy dish for dinner the other day (it was a Yoshikei recipe) and as it's so easy to play around with I will be making a lot more of the (I need to get my protein):

Tofu with curried vegetable sauce

2 packs of tofu, cut into large pieces
1 carrot, cut into juliennes
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 small bunch of nira (anyone know what this is called in English?)or spring onion, sliced thickly
1/2 tablespoon curry powder
240ml dashi (I used kombu)
30ml cooking sake
40ml soy sauce
40ml mirin
pinch of salt
1 rounded tablespoon cornstarch

Heat some oil in a pan and fry the vegetables and curry powder. Add all of the liquid ingredients and salt and heat to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat, mix the cornflour with a little water and stir into the vegetables. Heat again until thickened slightly. Arrange the tofu on plates and microwave to heat through, then top with the curried vegetables.