Sunday, 25 May 2014

Chocolate Syrup Cake for £1

Chocolate Syrup Cake

When I read about Choclette's We Should Cocoa (WSC) challenge for May, I knew I had to try and take part. I'm often unable to participate in WSC but it's a much-loved and incredibly popular challenge and I always enjoy seeing what people have made. Choclette decided to really challenge everyone this month by asking us to make a chocolate cake for £1, in line with the current focus on global poverty. 

Like many others, I found this challenge quite thought-provoking and have really enjoyed doing the research for it. Again, like most people, I soon realised that my usual cake base of butter and free-range eggs was not going to be feasible, so I had to think about alternatives. I know that margarine costs a lot less than butter but it's something that I'm really not keen on using, so the only option was to use oil. I mean, I've used oil in cakes before but usually just vegetable-based cakes such as carrot cake and pumpkin cake. Using oil in a chocolate cake was something I'd never contemplated. I also had to buy the very cheapest option for all the cake ingredients otherwise I would never have been able to manage it. I based my recipe on one I'd seen on the BBC Good Food website which you can see here. 

The results were a revelation. The cake was really delicious. I mean, nicer than my usual standard chocolate cake and a cinch to make. When it came out of the oven, it was moist and tender-crumbed with a slightly crisp exterior, just begging to be eaten (and I did indeed sample it while it was still warm). It also lasted incredibly well, staying moist and fresh much longer than a butter-based sponge. Without any budget restrictions, I would have added some vanilla essence to the batter and maybe replaced the milk with buttermilk. 

I have to confess that the total cost of the cake came to £1.01 and that doesn't include the icing sugar on top but I am still quite proud of my results. I'd like to thank Choclette for such a great challenge; my outdoor cake photos were taken in homage to her wonderful garden photography.

I'm pleased to be able to enter this in Camilla (Fab Food 4 All) and Helen's (Fuss Free Flavours) Credit Crunch Munch challenge, hosted this month by Gingey Bites.

This is also making its way over to Vanesther at Bangers and Mash for this month's Family Foodies challenge (which she runs jointly with Louisa from Eat Your Veg), entitled 'Cheap and Cheerful'


Ingredients and cost breakdown
175g self raising flour (5p)
1 tablespoon cocoa (5p)
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (2p)
140g caster sugar (14p)
2 eggs (30p)
150ml sunflower oil (21p)
150ml milk (7p)
2 tablespoons golden syrup (17p)

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Grease and base line a round cake tin, 20cm diameter

Sieve together the flour, bicarb and cocoa into a large bowl (or the bowl of your mixer). Add the sugar and mix. Add the oil, milk, syrup and eggs and beat until smooth. 

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing the top.

Put in the oven and bake for about 35-40 mins or until the cake is cooked and a cake tester comes out clean. 

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about 20 mins before carefully turning out and leaving to cool on a wire rack. 

If you're not on a budget, you could also ice this cake but I have to say that with just a dusting of icing sugar, it was pretty much perfect.

Chocolate Syrup Cake

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Penne with Speck and Leeks

Penne with Speck and Leeks

Another very busy period at work has left me little time for blogging but a recent lull has meant I've been able to catch up on some of my favourite blogs and so have found out about all those doing the fantastic Live Below the Line challenge. This asks people from all over the world to join the Global Poverty Project initiative in living on £1 a day for five consecutive days. Vanesther over at Bangers and Mash has successfully completed the challenge and her posts about it certainly make for interesting reading. She has decided to extend the frugal food theme to this month's Family Foodies challenge (which she runs jointly with Louisa from Eat Your Veg), entitled 'Cheap and Cheerful' so I'm sending this pasta dish over as it fits the bill perfectly. It's simple, delicious and has universal appeal which makes it ideal for a family meal. The leeks give a wonderful flavour and although the speck (an Italian smoked prosciutto, sometimes sold in the UK as Black Forest ham) is quite expensive, you only need a couple of slices to ensure that the wonderful smoky flavour of the ham permeates the pasta.


RECIPE- serves 3-4

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 leeks

1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon crème fraîche or sour cream
4 slices Italian speck/Black Forest ham, finely sliced
400g penne or other short pasta

Start by preparing the leeks.  As they can be very dirty, I usually slice them in half length ways and then chop them finely. Put them in a colander and wash thoroughly under running water. Drain well. 

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the leeks and cook gently until softened, being careful not to colour them as leeks can turn very bitter if they start to brown. Add the crushed garlic and continue cooking for a minute or two.

Stir through the crème fraîche. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

In the meantime, cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water, as per packet instructions. Near the end of the cooking, take a ladleful of the pasta cooking water and add to the leeks. When the pasta is al dente, drain well and mix with the leeks.  Add the finely sliced speck (I usually just scissor it in) and mix briefly. If you're not watching the purse strings, serve the pasta with lots of freshly grated parmesan. 

Leek and Speck Pasta