Clockwork cake

A take on an old-fashioned date slice, this clockwork cake is tasty, wholesome, and full of fibre. It’s also easy to make, especially if you’re in a hurry, and because it’s a tray bake, the pieces are just as good for packed lunches as they are for afternoon tea.

Why is it called ‘clockwork cake’?

Have a guess …

Clockwork cake recipe

For crumble:

  • 7oz/200g self-raising flour
  • 6oz/170g oats
  • 2oz/60g walnuts
  • 4oz/115g caster sugar
  • half tsp cinnamon
  • 7oz/200g butter

For filling:

  • 7oz/200g prunes
  • 4 tblsp water
  • 1oz caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F, Gas Mark 4.

Combine the flour, oats and sugar in a medium-large bowl.

Grind or crush the walnuts. I used an electric grinder (£12.99 from Aldi 3 years ago) but you can do a good job of this by placing the nuts in a bag and smacking them with a rolling pin. It’s not an exact science.

Add nuts to the mix.

Melt the butter gently in a small pan and pour it into the dry mix. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon until everything is a little bit stodgy and claggy. Put the bowl to one side.

Chop or scissor the prunes into tiny pieces and chuck them into the small pan that held the butter (no pan washing required).

Add the water and sugar and heat gently until the mixture bubbles. Stir, so they don’t stick. Take off the heat when the water disappears. Mash them with a fork or whizz with a hand blender stick. (More effective this way, but what you’ll save in time, you use up cleaning the stick knife later). They should be soft enough to mash—if not, add a couple more spoons of water and pop them on the heat again, mashing while simmering.

Spread half the filling on a half-size baking tray. Failing that, you can use a section of a standard baking tray. Press it down so that the base is firm. If you’re using a large baking tray, you can firm it up around the edges so that it keeps its shape despite having no sides.

Dollop the prune filling in blobs across the base until you’ve used it all up. You can spread it across with the back of a spoon if you want, but when you press down the rest of the crumble on top, it will push out the filling anyway.

Bake until golden brown. It will brown around the edges first, so keep an eye on those.

Leave the tray on a cooling rack for 20 mins and then turn it out as one piece onto the rack to cool completely.

Eat with a cup of tea!

Bramble (blackberry) and banana spelt crumble

Fruit crumble is way easier than pie.

There, I said it. This may be sacrilege, especially to American connoisseurs of pie, but the British idea of a pie involves a lot of pastry—always—and sometimes … sometimes pastry is a place you just can’t go.

Crumble, however, is the easy bit of pastry without the iced water, the no-touch rule, the rolling and the cursing. Takes 5 minutes to make, 40 minutes to bake, and 10 minutes to eat, so as an emergency, no-fuss pudding, it’s close to perfect and hard to muck up.

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Roasted potato gnocchi: using leftover mash

This idea I blatantly picked up from Nigella’s book Kitchen, but unlike hers, it uses fresh homemade gnocchi. This is because using the bought variety and cooking it in this way results in hard, slightly powdery bullets—not my idea of food!

I think I got the original recipe for gnocchi from James Tanner’s Take 5, or possibly from the Cranks’ Light Cookbook, but needless to say, it’s probably all my own by now, given I don’t mess on with quantities. I’ve been making these for years because I like leftovers to be more than just ‘what we had yesterday’.

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Summertime pepper soup

Summertime isn’t the most soupy time of year, I know, but if you get lucky with a large bag of veg and don’t have either time nor inclination to do something fancy with it, soup is a quick and easy tastebud treat.

I wouldn’t normally suggest a pepper soup, given that you’d probably need at least 3 packs of supermarket peppers at around £1.50-£2.00 each, but as hinted at above, I got lucky with a big bag of about 8 yellow and red peppers for £1. They were on their last legs, so you wouldn’t want to do anything more exciting with them, but this soup …. hell yeah!

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Nuts about gingernuts

Gingernuts are the ubiquitous British biscuits that you dunk in a glass of cold milk or a cuppa hot tea. They should—in my opinion—be hot and fiery, spicy but not bitter, and as dry and crunchy as possible.

If you check the internet for a recipe, things can get a bit confusing as there are all kinds of strange ideas, including using stem ginger bits (posh!), treacle (erm…) and mixed peel (NOPE!) so today I gave Delia’s recipe a go, with a couple of changes. Her one-teaspoon of ground ginger seemed a bit ‘tea-and-biscuits’ or ‘ladies-wot-lunch’, and I personally want my mouth to catch fire as I eat. Also I abhor soft biscuits (those are cookies), so in my paranoia I did these on a lower temperature. Next time, I’m doing it with plain flour to see if they are flatter and crunchier still, but the results were good enough today.

And yes, I had to call the fire service for my mouth. You might want to tone down the ginger. Or not.

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Slow cooker rice pudding: simple, as rich as you like it and tasty a f

The rice pudding of your dreams

Rice pudding: the stuff of childhood. But there are a couple of different ‘usual’ ways to make it. The easiest way to date has been to throw it in the oven. Thing is, I don’t care for it as much that way, especially since the last one I made boiled over and made an unholy mess. The other way is to make it on the hob. If you’ve got the patience, that makes a creamy, delicious pudding similar to the stuff you get in a tin, but with a better (less tinny) flavour.

I don’t have that patience. But I do have a slow cooker.

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Cheese, leek and potato pies and pasties

Even the fussiest veggies will resign themselves to a shitty cheese and onion pasty from anywhere. Well, for years I’ve searched for the perfect cheese and onion pasty filling, and today, having paid almost £2 for a fairly substandard effort from a chain bakery, I finally cracked.

Here’s my version of an almost entirely homemade cheese, leek and potato pie and pasty …

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