Life

James Street South Cookery School: The Great autumn fruits Bake Off

Niall McKenna

I DON'T know what your house is like but we will be glued to our TV screens this coming Wednesday. Is the football on? We don't care. For the past 10 weeks, my family, and a lot of my friends, have watched the highs, the lows, and the soggy bottoms, that have made this season of the Great British Bake Off one of the most addictive yet.

To celebrate the series, the final and the effect the show has had on baking habits, this week's recipes are for two cakes that can be easily made at home and which will go down a storm at afternoon tea, the local fete or – who am I kidding? – any time you walk past the plate.

Autumn calls out for cakes, desserts and pastries to make delicious use of the many types of fruit that are really coming in to their own at this time of year, and both these recipes do just that.

This week we were thrilled and justly proud of the team at our James Street South restaurant in Belfast which was crowned the Best Restaurant in Ireland at the 2016 Georgina Campbell Awards in Dublin. This came but a week after Food & Wine magazine named both The Bar & Grill and Hadski's as two of the top 10 restaurants in the whole of Ireland.

It is an honour, and testament to the hard work of all the teams across our restaurants, to receive these accolades from such well-respected names, and we remain committed to providing the best food and experiences for our customers with the amazing local produce we can enjoy straight off our doorstep. We hope you can join us in celebrating soon.

PLUM AND ALMOND SPONGE

8 ripe plums

pinch of cinnamon

zest of 2 lemons

200g butter

200g light brown sugar

4 eggs

200g strong flour

1tblsp baking powder

1tblsp baking soda

150g ground almonds

100g roasted crushed almonds

Start by quartering and de-stoning the plums, keeping the skin on. Toss in the cinnamon and the lemon zest. Keep them in a bowl and cover in cling film; leave to the side to marinade for up to one hour.

Whisk together the butter and sugar until all the sugar has dissolved. Add in the eggs one by one and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, sift in the flour and add the baking powder and baking soda. Add the ground almonds and fold into the wet mixture, mixing to make a batter consistency.

Tip the batter into a greased round baking tin and scatter in the marinated plums and the roasted, crushed almonds. Place in the oven and bake at 180C for 40 minutes. Check that the sponge is cooked through by using a needle to check the centre. I have added some plums on top of the sponge when serving.

CARAMELISED PEAR UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

4 pears

90g butter

160g soft light brown sugar

200g plain flour

½ tbsp ground cinnamon

1 small pinch ground ginger

1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

220g caster sugar

5 eggs

125 ml sunflower oil

grated zest of half an orange

Peel the pears and core them using a melon baller; cut into eighths. Melt the butter in a pot, stirring in the brown sugar until dissolved; remove from heat. Toss the pear slices in the caramel and arrange on top of the liner at the bottom of carefully lined circular cake tin. Set aside.

Sift the flour, cinnamon, ginger, and bicarb into a bowl and mix in the caster sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and orange zest. Make a well in the dry ingredients and whisk in the egg mixture.

Pour this batter over the caramelised pears; spread out until smooth. Bake at 180C for 40-50 minutes (test with a skewer as before). Allow to cool for five minutes in tin before carefully turning out. Serve warm and enjoy. (Try serving with a rocher of Chantilly cream and roughly chopped candied walnuts.)

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