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!

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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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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David’s Carleton Farm Food Shop, Penrith: a farm shop with its feet on the ground

David’s Carleton Farm Food Shop, Penrith is everything you’d expect from a farm shop—actually, scrub that! You won’t find something quite as singular anywhere else in the area. And yes, we’re inundated with some quite good farm shops in the area, but when they’re ‘good’ they’re usually also costly, and mainly out of my economic range—with the great quality, lovely customer service and food I can actually afford, for me, David Dickinson wins hands down … Read on for unadulterated enthusiasm!

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Food Choices film by Michal Siewierski: a dishonest argument for veganism

Food Choices by Michal Siewierski is not a documentary. Its first dishonest point is that it calls itself one when it isn’t.

What is it?

It’s an extreme right-wing and privilege-based argument for veganism that draws false conclusions, ignoring moderate thinking and the choices ordinary people have to make within a social context.

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Homemade onion bhajis

Curry is a fact of life in this household, but I’m always looking for new ideas i can make in a relatively authentic way. I recently had the opportunity to try out a restaurant in Leeds that I’d never been to before: Shabab, situated under the city train station. Paneer to die for, and that was just the starter.

So this week I found my local supermarket actually sells paneer now, and had a go making a curry from scratch. Went well. A day later, there’s one smallish meal left over. Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s great! Curry tastes even better the next day! But to cheer it up, I made a small batch of these onion bhajis, and ate so many of them while I was cooking that I couldn’t finish my meal in one go. *Shakes head in shame.

So, onion bhajis. We’re aiming for a crispy terracotta on the outside, soft and oniony in the middle, and everything cooked properly (harder to achieve with deep fat frying than you might think).

Delicious homemade onion bhajis
These babies were soft and light on the inside, crisp and oniony on the outside, and I didn’t overdo the chilli powder for once!

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