Mikedowney.co.uk
What's New
Site Map

Diary
Astronomy
Bits N Bobs
Computing
Food And Drink
Links
Photography
Welcome


Recipe Collections
Recipe A Week 2013
Recipe A Week 2010
A-Z of Regional Cakes


Selected Entries
Pinhole Photography
Keeping Quail
Coventry
Recipes
A different recipe each week
Friends websites
Oven Temperatures and Measuring Cups


Most popular stories
A Hamster's Home is his C...
Hamster Peanuts
Simple HDR photography wi...
A Tangfastic Mess
Halloween Animal Beds
Pizza, Hamsters and Ballo...
Hamster Baby Update
Decaffeinated Coffee
Garden Fountain
More Squirrel Photos
Not Quite HDR photography


RSS Feeds:
RSS Feed Entire Site.
RSS Feed Diary only.



Powered by Blosxom


Pinhole Photography Ring
pinhole webring logo
powered by RingSurf
Next | Previous
Random Site | List Sites

Regional Cakeathon Q: Quebec Maple Tart

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /
12/Apr/2015

I have had to go a bit further afield for the letter Q. When I was trying to find a British recipe, the nearest I could find was something called a Summer Pudding Of The Quantocks. The source of this recipe appears to be a single website which no longer exists so I decided to find something else.

There is a traditional Canadian recipe called a sugar pie and there are maple syrup versions from the Quebec region.

The recipe I followed was based on the one here but with the quantities halved:

  • ½ a cup of demerara sugar
  • 1/8 cup of maple syrup
  • 200ml of double cream
  • 1/8 cup of plain flour

I whisked together the first 3 ingredients then sifted the flour and whisked it into the mixture. I made my usual shortcrust pastry recipe, following the one on the BBC website (4oz plain flour, 2oz butter, a pinch of salt and enough water to bring it together).

The base was baked blind then the filling was poured in and returned to the oven, at gas mark 4, and baked until it was bubbling on top and started to look brown.

Quebec Maple Tart

The tart was very good but could probably do with more maple flavour. If I try it again I might up the maple syrup content and slightly reduce the sugar. Alternatively I might follow a traditional English treacle tart recipe but use maple syrup to replace some of the golden syrup.



Regional Cakeathon P: Penzance Cakes

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /
06/Apr/2015

This recipe came from The Country Housewife and Lady's Director', written by R. Bradley (who was Professor of Botany at Cambridge University) and published in 1728.

The Country Housewife and Lady's Director' (Bradley 1728)

The 'same' in the recipe above refers to a Mrs. M.N. who provided several recipes for the book.

Take the Yolks of Eggs well beaten, put to them some Mace finely powder'd, with a few spoonfuls of Wine, a little Salt, and as much Sugar as you please; then add as much Flour as is necessary, and a small quantity of Ale-Yeast, and work your Dough pretty stiff; then add some fresh Butter, broken in little bits, and work it in till all the Paste has partaken of it, and the Dough becomes as stiff as at first. Make your Cakes then, and bake them. They will keep some time.

I was unable to find out anything of the history of the Penzance Cake or whether it was traditionally associated with an event or festival. I found one website (Three Hearth House - Chi Teyr Oles, Simple living in West Cornwall) which discussed the Harvest Festival but didn't give any concrete history.

I decided to make two versions of the cake, with and without currants (or more precisely sultanas), so some would be close to the original book recipe and some would be more like the version from the website above (which didn't actually give the recipe they used).

The original recipe was wonderfully vague, as was the fashion at the time, failing to mention any quantities or times. It didn't even mention any need to prove the dough but I took that as an oversight and left mine to rise.

My recipe:

  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 2 tbs wine, infused overnight with 2 cloves and a pinch of nutmeg.
  • ¼tsp each of ginger and mixed spice
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2tbs sugar
  • 2 cups of flour (a mixture of plain and wholemeal)
  • 1 tsp bread yeast
  • 40g butter
  • 2 tbs sultanas

Since I don't have any mace, I steeped some nutmeg and a few cloves in the wine first. I also added ginger and mixed spice to the cake. I mixed everything in the order given in Bradley, adding ¾ of the flour initially, mixing more in while I kneaded in the butter. I divided the dough into two and kneaded sultanas into one half and left the other half plain. I shaped the dough into bread rolls and left them to rise for a few hours.

Penzance Cakes

The dough was quite dense and took a long time to rise. I baked them at gas mark 4 for about half an hour or so, until they looked done. The taste and texture was similar to a hot cross bun.

Penzance Cakes



Regional Cakeathon O: Oxford Pudding

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /
03/Mar/2015

This is another recipe where there are several different things with the same name. The traditional version (from at least the 18th century) which has biscuit crumbs, raisins, fat, sugar and egg mixed together then fried. There is a modern version which is completely different and has apricots and meringue on a puff pastry base.

Since I usually try to make the more authentic or historic version of a recipe, I had a go at the biscuit version.

Oxford Pudding, 'The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy', Hannah Glasse (1747)
Oxford Pudding, 'The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy', Hannah Glasse (1747)

A quarter of a pound of biscuit grated, a quarter of a pound of currants clean washed and picked, a quarter of a pound of suet shred small, half a large spoonful of powder-sugar, a very little salt, and some grated nutmeg; mix all well together, then take two yolks of eggs, and make it up in balls as big as a turkey's egg. Fry them in fresh butter of a fine light brown; for sauce have melted butter and sugar, with a little sack or white wine. You must mind to keep the pan shaking about, that they may be all of a fine light brown.

Along with Pope Lady Cakes and Isle of Wight Cracknells, this was another old recipe where I couldn't find any images of the food itself. At least it meant I didn't need to worry too much if mine came out looking a bit untidy or irregular.

Oxford Pudding

I followed the above recipe fairly closely, using a generous heaped teaspoon of mixed spice instead of the nutmeg. The mixture was quite soft and the balls of 'pudding' collaposed slightly in the pan.

I let them cool for a couple of minutes before trying one. They were a bit like a bread and butter pudding bite, surprisingly soft despite the biscuits being quite hard. Since the recipe didn't mention the type of biscuits required, I used a mixture of spare/broken biscuits including oat cookies and shortbread.

After I had made my version, I found another recipe:

Oxford Dumplings, The Art Of Cookery (Mollard 1836)
Oxford Dumplings, The Art Of Cookery (Mollard 1836)

Mix together a quarter of a pound of grated stale bread crumbs, a few currants, a little moist sugar, and a quarter of a pound of beef suet chopped fine, with two eggs, a little salt, and half a gill of cream. Divide the mixture into several parts and boil.

This version is much closer to a bread and butter pudding, using bread instead of biscuit and using a custard to bind everything together.



Cheesy Oat Bake

Story location: Home / food_and_drink /
15/Feb/2015

We had a roast chicken tonight and I decided to attempt some home made stuffing. Instead of a classic sage and onion breadcrumb based recipe I adapted a cheesy oat recipe.

The original version is a potato toppped cheese, onion and oats recipe, which we normally do with leeks to give extra flavour. It's made by frying the onion or leek, along with some garlic, in a mixture of oil and butter. It's then allowed to cool and then herbs, toasted oats, grated cheese and beaten eggs are added and mixed together. The base of a tin is lined with sliced potato and the mixture is spooned on top. It's baked for half an hour and then turned upside down to serve, so the potatoes are on top.

Tonight I started off with the same ingredients but added some home-made kale pesto which was leftover from yesterday. I formed the mixture into balls and added them to the roasting tin which already had roast potatoes cooking in it.

We liked the original oat bake but the potato topping is always a bit disappointing so doing a stuffing version means you get the flavor and a crunchy coating so I think it's an improvement and worth doing again.



Regional Cakeathon N: Nottingham Apple Pudding

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /
05/Feb/2015

I was hoping to try to cook the Northumberland Threshing Day Barley Bread recipe for the letter N but I couldn't find any barley flour in the shops. I've found a source of it on-line but the delivery cost makes it quite expensive so I've put that recipe to one side and I'll try it when I manage to track down some affordable flour.

Instead I've decided to try a Nottingham Pudding, which is a batter pudding with spiced baked apple inside. The traditional method appears to be to cook the apple whole in the batter. I thought about slicing the apple and frying it first, which might make it easier to eat, but I decided to stick to the original recipe.

Of course there's usually no such thing as a single original recipe so I looked at a few sources, including modern websites and Cassell's Dictionary of Cooking, which I have consulted for many of these recipes. Most recipes seem to resemble the two versions from Cassell's so I decided to follow the first one, which includes butter.

Nottingham Apple Pudding

I made a general purpose pancake batter using equal volumes of egg, flour and milk, along with a pinch of salt. I peeled and cored an apple, mixed together butter, sugar, cinnamon and mixed spice and put it in the middle of the apples. The apple was studded with a few cloves then placed in a buttered dish, the batter was poured around and the whole lot was baked for about 45 minutes at gas mark 6.

Nottingham Apple Pudding

I didn't really expect much from this but it came out well and I think it was nicer than I was expecting. This might have been partly because I was quite hungry when I tried it, fresh out of the oven.



Scones, Cakes and Biscuits

Story location: Home / food_and_drink /
01/Jan/2015

I've taken advantage of being at home over Christmas and New Year and I've managed to try a few new recipes.

Plum Slice

We've got a lot of fruit in the freezer waiting to be used. I was looking for recipes and adapted a blackberry slice recipe to use plums. When the plums defrosted a lot of juice came out so I strained it off and simmered it to thicken it.

Sweet Potato Scones

Sweet potato and cheese scones used up one of the sweet potatoes that have been sitting in the kitchen for a few weeks. They made a tasty lunch.

Spelt Biscuits

Spelt biscuits were made using spelt flour, bread flour, butter and fruit juice. I put some powdered ginger in to give them a bit more flavour.



No Knead Bread

Story location: Home / food_and_drink /
01/Jan/2015

I haven't had time to do much baking recently. A few months ago I started a new job in Birmingham and by the time I get home, have tea and wash up, it's either too late or I'm too tired to make anything fancy.

I have been making a 'no-knead' ciabatta style bread a lot since it's easy to make, only taking a few minutes to set up, then I can leave it to prove overnight.

The recipe is:

  • approx ¾ cup of sourdough starter
  • 3½ cups of flour
  • 1½ cups of liquid (milk, water or a mixture or juice and water)
  • a heaped teaspoon of salt

I use 3 plain flour, ½ of a heavy rye flour, any more rye and the texture comes out more like a regular bread (crumb-like) and less ciabatta-like (stretchy, full of holes).

Everything goes in the food mixer and the dough hook is used to mix it all together for 10 minutes or so. The dough will be very wet and if any rye flour was used, it might also be quite sticky. If I mix the dough in the morning, I then transfer it to a oiled bowl to prove for a few hours.

If the dough is very soft, it might need to be baked in a lined tin, otherwise it can go on a baking tray. In either case, I dust the tin with cornmeal. After transferring the dough to the tin I leave it to prove a bit more (sometimes overnight in the fridge).

Start baking at gas mark 7, then after 10 minutes turn the oven down to about gas mark 4-5 then bake for a further 30-45 minutes, depending on the shape of the loaf.



Funnel Cake

Story location: Home / food_and_drink /
18/Oct/2014

This is actually being uploaded the same day as the Nottingham Apple Pudding (5th February 2015) but is being back-dated. I found the photos of the funnel cake on my camera but didn't get around to copying them off at the time.

Funnel Cake

I had forgotten we had made them and when I saw the thumbnail images on the computer screen, I couldn't work out what they were until I zoomed in.

I think this is the recipe we followed, where the batter starts of a bit like a hot water pastry made with butter, then has eggs added to make it more pourable.



Regional Cakeathon M: Manchester Pudding

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /
17/Oct/2014

Althoug I lived in Manchester for 3 years, I only remember Manchester Tarts from school dinners. The version we used to have was similar to the one given here, with a pastry base topped with jam and set custard, with coconut sprinkled on top.

I have decided to go further back in time and cook a Manchester Pudding which appears to be an older version of the dish. A lot of old recipes (such as the one from Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery and Mrs Beaton) use puff pastry then jam and custard. Most modern variants have the custard on the bottom then jam then meringue, which is what I have done here.

Manchester Pudding recipe

Recipe

Custard base

Warm ½ pint of milk with 25g of sugar, 25g of butter and a few drops of vanilla essence. Add 50g of breadcrumbs and simmer for a couple of minutes. Beat in 2 egg yolks and pour into ramekins or a pyrex dish. If using ramekins, put them in a tray with some hot water in the bottom. Bake at gas mark 4 for around 30 minutes (or 45 if doing a single dish).

Jam Layer

The tradtional way is to let the custard cool then spread jam over the top. We had half a jar of cherry coulis so I stirred in a teaspoon of arrowroot to thicken it then poured it over the custard.

Meringue

I whisked the 2 egg whites along with 100g of icing sugar and a pinch of cream of tarter, until the whites had increased in volume and gone thick enough to form peaks without collapsing.

I spooned the meringue over the fruit layer then baked at gas mark 8 for 10 minutes.

Manchester Pudding recipe
The flash had made the meringue look like it has some kind of gold glitter on top. The custard layer at the bottom was a bit soft: maybe an extra egg or more breadcrumbs might have helped. Apart from that the taste and texture were pretty good.



Plugin for a 'Like' button

Story location: Home / computing / blosxom /
08/Oct/2014

I wrote this plugin over 4 years ago, to add a 'Like' button similar to Facebook. It is a standard Blosxom plugin which uses a bit of JavaScript to modify the page when the button is clicked.

I hadn't realised that I never uploaded it here. I have updated it to use JQuery, which replaces some if statements and browser specific code with a single line (JQuery takes care of all the browser specific stuff).

To use the plugin, copy it into the plugins folder as usual. It needs

<script src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.11.1/jquery.min.js"></script>

adding to the head section of the webpage, like all the other JQuery based plugins here. Add the line:

$like::likeform

where you want the button to appear.

A list of most-liked stories can be generated and is available in

$like::mostliked

The plugin is available to download here.



HDR without bracketing.

Story location: Home / photography /
19/Sep/2014

I have previously mentioned using the Clahe plugin in ImageJ/Fiji to create a sort of pseudo-HDR image from a 16 bit image from a digital camera.

I set the camera to record a raw image at low contrast to attempt to record as high a range of intensities as possible, then use Clahe to increase local contrast while retaining detail in highlights and shadows.

I recently installed pfstools which includes a lot of command-line tools to convert images and generate HDR images. I thought I would look into whether I could use these tools with RAW images from the camera.

It is possible to convert the RAW to a HDR file using:

pfsindcraw DSC_nnnn.RAW | pfsoutrgbe DSC_nnnn.hdr

When the image has been converted into a suitable HDR format, the different 'tone mapping' commands can be tried to see which ones produce a pleasing result. It can actually be quite difficult getting the balance right between retaining detail and producing an 'over-processed' image which looks too obviously like an HDR photograph.

The original RAW image
Simply taking the 16 bit RAW file and adjusting the contrast to show the full range of intensities can result in a flat looking image.

See more ....

Processed using Clahe
The same image, processed using the Clahe plugin in ImageJ, to retain shadow and highlight details while maintaining good contrast.

Processed using pfstools
Using pfstools tone mapping to increase local contrast and decrease the dynamic range.

Pfstools offers several different ways of converting the HDR file into a 256 bit colour image and a bit more trial and error may be needed to get a good result.



Hand-held HDR photography

Story location: Home / photography /
18/Sep/2014

Classic HDR photography usually takes a bracketed set of exposures and combines them to produce an image which retains detail in the shadows and highlights. Normally this needs a tripod to ensure the images can be combined without any pixel shift between them. Sometimes it isn't possible to use a tripod, especially if taking a photo in a confined space or a building where they are forbidden.

A lot of HDR generating software includes some form of image alignment which can be used to overcome a certain amount of camera movement. Most of the time this seems to work quite well but every now and then, especially if you are using a lens with a lot of distortion such as an ultra-wide, a simple alignment won't work because the distortion stretches out different parts of the picture by different amounts.

Several months go I encountered a piece of software called LensFun which a library of functions to correct for lens distortions. There is a Gimp plugin based on it (GimpLensFun) which is readily available for Linux and Windows and is part of the Gimp distribution available from the Gimp on OSX project at Sourceforge.

The 'batch process' function of Gimp can be used to apply the correction to a series of images which can then be used to generate an HDR image.

See more ....

Astley Castle, looking out
A single exposure is insufficient to capture the dynamic range of the scene.

Astley Castle, looking out
Combining the corrected images increases the dynamic range.



Regional Cakeathon L: Liverpool Tart

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / a_to_z /
14/Sep/2014

When I began this A to Z of regional baking, I started to look for recipes named after places I knew or had been to. When I was looking for recipes for the letter L I found this and Lincolnshire Gingerbread. The latter is a recipe from Grantham, which we visited last year on our way to Skegness, but since I grew up on The Wirral and we would occasionally go shopping to Liverpool, I thought the more local recipe might be a better choice.

When I found this recipe, I thought I should give it a go. It's not as well known as the Manchester Tart - apparently the recipe was recently rediscovered in a hand-written recipe book.

Liverpool Tart

The original version of the recipe was published in a village newsletter (orignal web page no longer available but is archived here and is reproduced below).

See more ....

From a family cookbook dating back to the 1790s

Liverpool Tart

  • ½lb moist sugar (use a dark brown sugar)
  • 2oz butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lemon
  • pastry

Put the butter and sugar into a moderate oven to melt. When melted, let it cool. Boil your lemon whole very slowly (or it will break) until quite soft. Mince it whole as it is, saving the juice as much as possible and taking out the pips. Mince very fine. Beat the egg well. Mix all well together. Line a flat open tart dish with good paste [ie. pastry] and pour in the mixture to one uniform thickness (about ½ an inch), cross bar over and bake. Serve hot or cold.

The version of the recipe I followed came from the link at the top of the page. I made a quantity of sweet shortcrust pastry and while it was cooling down in the fridge I made the filling:

  • One lemon with (most) of the pips remove - see below.
  • 8 oz brown sugar
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 egg (beaten)

I melted the butter, stirred in the sugar, blitzed the lemon in the food processor, then when the butter/sugar mixture had cooled a bit I mixed everything together.

I didn't blind-bake the pastry but poured the mixture in before cooking at gas mark 5 for 22-25 minutes.

Overlooked lemon pip

The resulting tart is a bit like a softer version of a treacle tart. The filling was a bit sticky with a few crunchy bits: the lemon had lots of pips. I chopped it up before liquidizing it, and there were were several pips in each piece.

There is an interesting discussion on the history of the Liverpool Tart in the PDF available from www.gerryjones.me.uk. Apparently several bakers in and around the city have started producing them.



Updated Seemore Plugin

Story location: Home / computing / blosxom /
13/Sep/2014

This website uses the seemore plugin which makes it possible to only show the start of an entry, and expand to show the full item when a link is clicked. The original version reloaded the entire page but I have modified the plugin to use the JQuery javascript language so it now expands the item in-situ without having to reload.

It works in a similar fashion to the updated gallery plugin and also needs

<script src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.11.1/jquery.min.js"></script>

to be added to the head section of the webpage.

The updated plugin can be downloaded here.



Guy's Cliffe House

Story location: Home / Blog /
13/Sep/2014

The Heritage Open Weekend continues and we visited another site this morning, again choosing one we hadn't been too before. I originally thought that Guy's Cliffe House, at Warwick, was just a ruined building to look at but there was more on site, including a medieval church which is now a masonic chapel, and various other pathways and passages to walk through.

 

Thumbnail Thumbnail Thumbnail Thumbnail Thumbnail

Click on the thumbnail to view the image