Pina colada cake

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Bert has a new thing of telling me his secrets, accompanied by the whisper, ‘this is top, top secret’. I obviously can’t reveal any here, but I’m really enjoying hearing them. Some are a long way from being news to me, but others are genuinely surprising – a wonderful reminder that we never really know anyone as well as we think we do.

I’ve had to repay him with my own secrets (one secret buys one secret), and I didn’t think I really had any, but it’s amazing what you can rustle up if you have to – and how therapeutic it is to share it.

Yes, I like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain. I’m not much into health food, I am into champagne. I’m not that into yoga and I have half a brain.

None of those are my real secrets.

Makes one 20cm cake which lasted us about an hour

40g soft brown sugar

150g pineapple chunks

115g butter

115g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

100g dessicated coconut

4 tablespoons coconut milk (I’ll make chicken and mushroom biryani with the rest) (probably)

225g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 140 fan. Grease a 20cm round tin well, then sprinkle in the brown sugar and layer in the pineapple. Add a bit more pineapple if you like things pineapple-y.

Beat the sugar and butter together till really light and fluffy then add the eggs, cinnamon (a Smitten Kitchen recipe got me into the idea of cinnamon in coconut cakes – it gives it a toasty, mellow nuttiness), coconut and coconut milk. Finally stir in the flour, just until you can’t see it, and spoon the mixture on top of the pineapples. Smooth over and bake for about 45-50 minutes, till golden and springy.

Obviously turn upside down to serve. Perhaps with champagne.

Sweet and sour chicken

chinese chickwn

We went to the zoo this morning, and on the way out Bert was counting on his fingers all the animals he’d seen. ‘One, tiger. Two, pinguin. Three, tiger. Five, tiger.’

Basically, we liked the tiger.

This is a zoo selfie because I forgot to take a picture of Bert eating the chicken.

Serves 3-4

For the sauce:

100ml Chinese rice vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1 table spoon dark brown sugar

1 tin of pineapple and the juice

4 star anise

1 dessert spoon tamarind (optional)

4 small carrots, cut into batons

1 red pepper, chopped into bitesized pieces

For the chicken:

2-3 chicken breasts, cut into bitesized pieces

240g self raising flour

50g cornflour and more to dust

200ml tap water

200ml sparkling water

Sunflower oil to fry

Put the pineapple and its juice, the sugar and honey, the vinegar and the star anise (and the tamarind, if you have it) in a saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the veg for the last 10 or so minutes, depending on how crunchy you like it; a little more if you like it soft. Remove the star anise before serving.

Whisk together the two types of flour, the water and sparkling water to make the batter. Dust the chicken in cornflour and then coat it in batter. Fry it in sunflower oil in a deep pan at 180 degrees for about five minutes, till it puffs up and goes golden. Serve with rice.

Do not make the mistake of frying it in a deep fat fryer unless you fancy dancing around the kitchen, swearing as you try to dislodge the welded-on chicken from the metal basket.

Little pineapple upside down cakes

pineapplecake

Tonight I had a flushed, tired, whinging toddler on my hands and no pudding planned. But sometimes everyone needs something sweet. The whole thing took 20 minutes, 15 of which were oven time. Five of those 15 were taken up with spoon licking.

The quantities are in ounces because the maths, dividing down from four times the quantity, was so much easier.

The quality of the picture is because a toddler soaked my phone in spit and cake batter.

Makes 3 muffin sized cakes

1 egg

2 ounces of self raising flour

2 ounces of soft butter

2 ounces of golden caster sugar

A few chunks of pineapple

Put the egg, flour, butter and sugar in a food processor and mix till smooth and whippy. Butter three holes of a muffin tin, layer a few chunks of pineapple in the bottom and top with batter.

Cook at 180 degrees (or on a grid shelf on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven) for 15 minutes.

I ate 2.5 of the three.