Raspberry and almond cake

The soft fruit has been amazing this summer. Everything seems to have been ripe for picking earlier than normal too, so the season of home grown fruit has been long and luscious! That is apart from my own raspberry canes that seem to be taking their time to produce anything.

Berries are high on my list of favourite foods. In the past, it would be hard for me to decide whether strawberries or raspberries would come out on top. Strawberry flavoured anything was always my choice as a child, even over chocolate. And when the fruit was in season, I took any opportunity to cram those beautifully sweet, juicy berries into my eager mouth. Today, strawberries are available nearly all year round, which is great, but they no longer taste like the berries of my childhood. Mainly grown under cover, often requiring extra chemicals, they can be watery and drab. Home-grown strawberries still hit the mark, but there’s all too few to satisfy, once the weather, the slugs and the birds have been involved!

So raspberries are now my soft fruit of choice. Sweet and sharp at the same time, their flavour holds true. Homegrown are still the best in my mind, particularly as supermarkets charge a high premium and use a large amount of plastic packaging. The great thing is they freeze really well and so can be accessible all year round.

Bright red berries are packed full of vitamins and helpful phytonutrients so that not only do they taste amazing, our bodies love them too. In particular, the flavonoids in raspberries are thought to help reduce inflammation in the body that can lead to heart disease as well as help improve memory. They are also packed with anti-oxidants, those wonderful pac-man like substances that help mop up nasty free radicals circulating in the blood and have a high amount of fibre so can help with gut health as well as slow release of sugars.

You many have noticed that I tend to add fruit to cakes. This is partly because I love fruit, but also the natural sweetness helps reduce the need for additional refined sugar as well as adds in extra fibre and all these nutritional goodies. Cake as a ‘health food’ – what could be better than that?

Almonds are another key ingredient that not only taste good, but will provide your body with wonderful nutrients like magnesium and vitamin E as well as healthy fats and fibre. In fact there’s much to say about this amazing nut – that’s another blog post!

This cake is a perfect summer recipe; because you can use frozen raspberries, you can now bring a bit of summer into your kitchen at any time of the year! It’s soft and so tasty, and works well with gluten free flour or wholemeal. And of course as it’s dairy free and egg free, it’s good for your vegan friends or those with food intolerances  (apart from nuts – sorry nut allergy people!). If you want to make it look more beautiful, drizzle some stripes of simple icing mixed with a little almond essence over the top. Not only does it look good, but creates a flavour reminiscent of Bakewell Tart.

So give this a go and enjoy a sunny summer’s afternoon any time of the year. Do let me know how you get on!

Raspberry and almond cake (makes 8 good slices)
150g wholemeal or gluten free self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
100g coconut sugar (or other sugar of choice)
200ml almond milk
70ml olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
100g raspberries (fresh or frozen – the berries keep their shape better if frozen)
25g flaked almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 18cm round cake tin or a 2lb loaf tin.

Measure the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt into one bowl. Mix the coconut sugar, almond milk, olive oil and vanilla essence in another. Keep the raspberries and flaked almonds to one side for now. Pour the wet mix into the dry and mix quickly but carefully. Once everything is roughly combined, pour half the mix into the prepared cake tin, sprinkle the raspberries over the top then fill with the remaining mix. Make sure all the the raspberries are covered with the mix, sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top and place in the oven for 35 minutes.

Check the cake – it should be risen slightly and lightly browned on top. Check with a skewer to see if it is cooked through – if some mix sticks to the skewer, place back in the oven for a few more minutes. Once you’re happy it’s cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then tip out onto a cooling rack. Decorate as above if you wish when fully cool, or just tuck in as it is. Enjoy!



Summer crumble comfort

Some may call us brave, others foolish, but we have just been away on holiday for two weeks, leaving our teens at home to fend for themselves. It’s not the first time we’ve done it, but certainly the longest. And with great relief, they managed just fine – the house was still standing, no difficult to explain holes in the wall or dangling radiators (it’s happened before!) and pretty tidy too – how wonderful!

The only thing that needed immediate attention turned out to be the freezer – the door had been left open a bit so it was over-iced and a couple of things had started to defrost. No big problem that’s for sure, especially when those two items were a container of cakes and a bag of rhubarb – they just needed to be eaten :).

The biggest issue about being home turned out to be the weather! Not that it had been perfect in the Alps, but I had got used to a large amount of very hot sun, and now suddenly it was grey, dull and definitely wet, enough to put the damper on anyone’s holiday spirits. Comfort food was needed and that bag of rhubarb was begging to be made into a crumble. As it is still summer, no matter what the view out the window may say, I wanted to add a suitable seasonal element and the tub of gorgeously sweet strawberries I’d picked up hit the spot. Some may say that rhubarb and strawberry are an odd combination for a crumble, but they go together perfectly as the sweetness of the glorious strawberries means you need less sugar to soften the tart rhubarb, just as long as the strawberries are properly grown and flavoursome. I wouldn’t make this with insipid out-of-season watery berries that’s for sure.

Crumble is a fantastic dessert – easy to make and (nearly) everyone enjoys it. Traditionally though, it’s not the best for those who need to eat dairy or gluten free, or for anyone looking to lose weight due to the large added sugar content. Fortunately, it’s easy to give it a make over! I use a mixture of (gluten free if necessary) oats and gluten free flour for the topping with a smidge of coconut sugar to help with the crunch. Cinnamon aids with sugar absorption and so a teaspoon added into the topping not only benefits the body, but tastes amazing too.

Both rhubarb and strawberry are fabulous nutrition wise, packed full of anti-oxidants, phytonutrients and various vitamins. Strawberries are an amazing source of vitamin C in particular.

Of course, crumble is an all year dessert, just use whatever fruit that happens to be in season – apple is still a traditional favourite! Although pear and raspberry is close behind. Alternatively, if fresh is not possible then look for bags of frozen fruit and use one of those – it’s a fabulous way of getting a berry hit in the middle of winter!

So why not give this a go – everyone will agree on the flavour, the only debate will be custard, ice cream or cream to top it (dairy free of course!).

Rhubarb and strawberry crumble

4-5 stalks of rhubarb
150g strawberries
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
2 tablespoons water
85g oats (gluten free if needed)
70g plain flour (wholemeal/gluten free)
2 heaped tablespoons dairy-free spread  or 2 tablespoons of nut butter of choice (eg: almond, cashew nut)
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Chop the rhubarb into chunks, slice the strawberries in half (if big) and place in a medium sized oven-proof dish with the coconut sugar and water. Ensure everything is mixed well together.
Mix the oats, flour, coconut sugar and cinnamon together, add the dairy free spread or nut butter and rub in using your finger tips until it’s blended in and small chunks stick together (you can do this in a food processor if you don’t want crumble mix up your nails!). Sprinkle over the top of the prepared fruit and pop in the oven for 20 minutes or so until the fruit bubbles up a bit and the top is lightly browned and firm.
Leave to rest for a few minutes then serve with whichever accompaniment you choose. Enjoy!