Wednesday, 13 January 2010


What To Do When Your Dad's Here For Dinner.

My dad turns up at this flat every couple of weeks.  This is fine.  It's his flat.  I just use it while I'm waiting for the next job.  But I feed him.  Which is also fine, because I like to cook.  Sometimes he takes me for a curry, but I do try and cook because curry every two weeks would be bad for me.

But I tend to forget that he eats lots.  Also fine.  But I have to remember that he eats twice what I eat, and that therefore I need to create food accordingly.  I'm not always very good at this.  When I opened the fridge at four o'clock this afternoon and looked at the quantity of chilli I was planning to use to feed us, along with the couple of bits of cornbread I didn't already freeze and thought about how much rice I could decently serve as well - I realised I was short about a third of a meal.  Hence the emergency berry sponge.

The only useful thing I remember learning in school food tech lessons was one throwaway remark by a teacher, who said that sponge cake was equal weights of eggs, flour, butter and sugar, plus a pinch of salt and some raising agent (1rounded tsp to every 100g of plain flour, or just use self-raising).  I hardly ever look at another recipe now, if I just want sponge.  Oh I tweak it - the equal quantities version always works out a little dry, so I add whatever dairy I have on hand until it's a little looser.  Ideally it would be cream, but usually it's some sort of yoghurt.  That's quite a good one, because the acid helps the raising agent and cakes rise more.  Sometimes I've added fruit purees to it (as for an apple crumble cake, or raspberry cupcakes), often I sub some of the flour for cocoa to make chocolate cake.  It's a great base, and it works even if it's not perfect.  It has the enormous benefit of being easily memorable, so that you never need to look anything up.

My freezer virtually always has frozen berries in it.  I love them.  I defrost a few with a spoonful of sugar and add a dollop of yoghurt and often call it lunch, or a sauce for something else, or a way of getting vitamins.  They're handy.  They aren't necessary for this recipe - jam would frankly have done.  Or golden syrup and pineapple rings.  Or apple sauce.  Or pears.  Or nothing at all.

Berry Sponge Pudding
1 medium free range/organic egg
50g butter
50g caster sugar
50g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
A spoonful of low-fat yoghurt to loosen
Enough frozen mixed berries to cover the bottom of whatever dish you are using (my flan dish above is about 20cm across, and I probably used 200g of berries)
Vanilla or regular sugar to sprinkle over - around 3 tbsp

Preheat the oven to 200℃.  Put the berries in the dish and sprinkle with sugar.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes, just to defrost them a bit.  Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, then sift in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Beat in the yoghurt if it needs it, just so it isn't so stiff.  Carefully blob the cake mix on top of the berries - it won't be neat, and you can't just dump it all in and spread it out.  Don't worry about the edges, it'll spread out.  Bake in a preheated oven until golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean - around 15 minutes.

And because I was making this for my dad, I had to make custard.  Daddy likes custard.  Which meant I had to go and buy cornflour, so I could have come up with a better dessert altogether.  Ah well.  The following is my mother's custard recipe, which isn't nearly as rich as most of the ones on the web, but which means you can indulge without worrying too much.  It's the first thing I ever learnt to cook, I used to eat it on its own.

Real Custard
½ a pint milk (I actually used *1%* for this)
1 egg
1 tsp cornflour
1 dessertspoonful sugar
Drop of vanilla essence (optional)

In a small pan, bring most of the milk to a gentle simmer - just bubbles around the edge.  Keep back about a spoonful of the milk and dissolve the cornflour in it.  When it's smooth, whisk in the egg and sugar until smooth again.  When the milk is hot, carefully pour it into the egg mixture, whisking as you go, then pour the lot back into the pan, still whisking.  Carefully heat until it's close to the boil again and has thickened a bit - it should just coat the back of a spoon.

1 comment:

  1. Think this is just about along the lines of '4, 4, 4 and 2 eggs' sponge from the marvellous BeRo book - which has the added advantage that you can easily change the quanities for the mathematically challenged ;)