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Cookery: Rayburn heaven

24 May 2007

by Terence Handley MacMath

THIS column should be surrounded by a little border of stars and angels and cherubim blowing trumpets in exaltation. Because this is the beginning of my new serene cuisine.

I call it serene cuisine because, with my new Rayburn, I become one of those slow cooks who cook slow food (rice pudding and baked potatoes), and who move in a leisurely way to put the kettle on the hob. But it’s not all slow motion: I can knock up a cake on a whim (after all, the oven’s hot) or do indecently fast things directly on the hotplate with nothing in between. Deo gratias.

With my sky-blue Rayburn came a shocking-pink Rayburn cookery book — of late 1950s vintage, to judge from the cover girl’s frock. I tried a modified Date and nut cake, using powdered hazelnuts and raisins rather than the classic date and walnut pieces. The result is a richer cake that was crumbly to cut — and that disappeared before I had a chance to try it. I think it was a success.

8ozs white self-raising flour
2ozs pear and apricot spread
1oz butter
8ozs raisins
8ozs ground hazelnuts
pinch salt
1 egg
¼ pint milk

  Heat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 and line a 1lb-loaf tin. Melt the fruit-spread in the milk, and leave to cool. Sift the flour and salt. (If you prefer to use wholewheat plain flour, add 2 teaspoons of baking powder.) Rub in the butter.

Beat the egg into the cooled, sweetened milk, and add the mixture to the flour. Add the raisins and nuts. Put the mixture into the tin and bake for about 45 minutes in the centre of the oven. If you use the classic date-and-walnut combination, you may like to serve the cake in buttered slices.

Watercress is good value in the market, but the flavour can be overpowering when used in a salad. As a change, try it as a quiche ingredient. This Watercress and sweetcorn quiche is full of flavour without the addition of cheese or salt, if you are avoiding them.

1oz butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 large bunch watercress
4 tablespoons tinned sweetcorn
2-3 eggs
one-third pint milk
8ozs pastry

Line a quiche dish with the pastry, and have a hot oven ready — 200°C/gas mark 6 or thereabouts. I have never succeeded in baking a quiche-shell blind without the sides’ shrinking or cracking (readers: please tell me if you can do it, and how), but I can avoid a soggy bottom by having a baking sheet ready in the oven to put the quiche on.

Melt the onion in the butter, and add the chopped watercress (save the tough stalks for soup). When they are tender, line the bottom of the quiche tin with them, and add the sweetcorn. Beat the eggs and milk together, and pour over. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the quiche is nicely risen and set.

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