Friday, 8 November 2013

Home Farm Cakes

Oh dear, poor old blog.  This time last year I said I was going to start blogging again... and now, a year later, I still keep telling myself I should.  I'm just checking in, really.  I'm still here.  I've been busy, and many many crappy things have happened this year, but the year is nearly over and I'm hopeful that 2014 will be a much better year.  Maybe I'll even find time to blog properly again, who knows? 

In the meantime, I happened to have a spare five minutes and set up a little Facebook page for the celebration cakes and cupcakes I make and decorate.  I don't do it as a business, just as a hobby for friends and family, and I certainly don't claim to be any good, but I do enjoy it.  Check it out, if you have a minute - the address is (named after where we live).  

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

An ungreedy pie

I’m still following Weight Watchers (over three stone gone now – nearly there!) and while there are many recipes that are adaptable for those of us who are shunning butter and fatty cuts of meat and even cake, one thing I am really missing is a good pie.  There is no comfort food like a proper pie with proper pastry – and that means the pastry has to go underneath the filling, not just on top.  Otherwise it’s just a stew with a lid.  My husband becomes most annoyed when we go out for a meal and he orders pie only to be presented with a stew with a lid, I’m pretty sure it would be a divorceable offence if it happened at home.

 This week I really fancied a pie, but I just didn’t have the WW points to “spend” on it.  There was also the fact that we are extremely poor this month due to having just spent more on flooring for the new house than I paid for my car three years ago!  So I had to come up with a pie that was tasty but low in propoints and only used ingredients that I already had at home.  So without further ado, here is my lovely pie; it’s meat-free but very tasty and serves four hungry people, with 11 WW points per serving.  I’m still using my iPhone to take photos as my proper camera is behind stacks of boxes and I can’t quite reach it, but bear with me.

Goat’s Cheese and Lentil Filo Pie


1 270g package of frozen filo pastry
Olive oil (I use an oil spray)
150g goat’s cheese
100g red lentils
1 big white onion, diced
1 big or 2 small courgettes, diced
1 pointy red pepper, diced
A handful of chestnut mushrooms, sliced finely
1 stock cube (whatever type you have is fine)
2 big carrots or 3 small ones, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or sliced
2 sticks of celery, diced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried thyme
Pine nuts (just a few)

Spray a large saucepan with some olive oil, and fry the fennel seeds briefly over a high heat.  Turn the heat down, and add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots, and cook gently for about five minutes until the onion is translucent.  Add the red pepper, mushrooms and courgette and cook for another minute or two. 

Add the lentils, thyme and enough hot water from a freshly-boiled kettle to cover it all with a little bit extra, and crumble in the stock cube.  Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 15 minutes, by which time hopefully the lentils will have absorbed most of the water (if not, drain off any excess).  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and let the mixture cool.  When it’s cool, dice up the goat’s cheese and stir it in.

[While my pie filling was cooling, I went to my Weight Watchers meeting and learned that I had lost another 4lbs in the two weeks since I was last there – hurrah!] 

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. 

Now you want to find a clean tea towel, soak it with cold water and wring it out.  Use this to cover your filo pastry while you’re not working with it, because it will dry out very quickly.  A Pyrex or similar dish is great for this, but a squarish baking tin would be fine – just grease it with a little oil or butter first. 

Use four sheets of filo for the base.  Lay out the first left to right, trying to push it into the corners without tearing it, and leave the edges hanging over the baking dish.  Spray or brush with olive oil (or indeed melted butter if you are not trying to be good).  Lay out the next sheet on top of the first, top to bottom this time, and spray/brush with oil again.  Repeat these two steps. 

Now pour in your lentilly goaty cheesy filling and level the top.  Cover it up with the overhanging edges of filo, and spray with oil.  You should have about three sheets of filo left in the packet, and what I do is just scrunch them up and stick them on top so it looks spiky.  You can be tidy if you like, I’m too lazy.  Whatever you decide, make sure you oil the top when you’re done, because this will make it crisp up nicely, brown prettily and taste lovely.  Sprinkle some pine nuts over the top.

Bake the pie for 30 minutes, by which time you should smell it from several rooms away.  You can serve it with whatever you like – salad, potatoes, a big glass of wine.

I’m not claiming that this is a substitute for a proper steak and ale pie with lardy pastry.  It’s not.  But it’s an awful lot tastier than a low fat ready meal : )

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Olympic gold - these cookies are winners!

This house renovation business is turning out to be a much bigger deal than I thought it was going to be.  It's been about six weeks since we got the keys, but we are still living in a building site and I'm sure it's getting worse before it gets better.  There really hasn't been a lot of time for baking... in fact there hasn't been much time for anything fun, and I'm starting to wish we'd bought a new property (and probably bankrupted ourselves in the process).  At least I'd have a living room.  And a bath.  Still, it'll all be worth it in the end... I hope! 

I did manage to find a bit of time last week to whip up some cookies for an Olympic-themed baking competition at work.  These were fairly quick to make, although royal icing can be a little bit fiddly until you've got the hang of it (judging by my piping skills, I need a LOT more practice).  I think these would be great for a child's birthday party, maybe one with the initials of each guest, or as prizes for party games.  I had hoped to enter them into this month's Calendar Cakes blog challenge, but sadly time ran away with me!

Lovely Steenbergs vanilla paste on top of the pile

I didn't manage to take any step by step photos, as I made them in a hurry very late at night (hence the hastily-snapped iPhone photos)!  But the recipe comes from The Biscuiteers book and can be found here, with apologies for the Daily Mail link. You just roll out the dough, cut out your shapes, and bake them at 170ºC for about 14 minutes.  If you want to use the biscuits as medals, cut a hole in them before baking.  

This recipe is really tasty - all that golden syrup makes for a delicious cookie - but I also added a teaspoon of Steenberg's Organic Vanilla Paste.  If you're read any of my previous posts, you'll know that I'm extremely fussy about what vanilla extract I use, so I was really interested to try this - it's a paste made from real bourbon vanilla pods and vanilla powder and gives a wonderful deep vanilla flavour.  Not to mention it smells absolutely divine!  It's definitely the next best thing I've tried to using vanilla pods, but a lot more convenient and cost-effective.

One of these makes mixing royal icing much easier.

When it comes to icing the cookies, you want to mix up some royal icing.  I use ready made royal icing sugar - all you need to do is add water, and give it a really good beating with a food mixer if you have one.  Make sure you keep royal icing covered when you're not using it, because it dries out very quickly.  And if you're using a piping bag, push the piping nozzle into a damp cloth when you're not working with it to stop the end drying out. Put some in a separate bowl and water it down to a runnier consistency.  Pipe the outline with the thicker icing, and then use the runnier icing to fill it in.  When it dries, you can pipe letters, numbers or whatever you like over the top.  I wrote BA (the initials of my team at work) and 2012, plus attempted to draw the Olympic rings and failed miserably as you can see!

Now for the clever bit.  When the icing is completely dry, spray the whole lot with edible gold or silver spray paint.  I used Dr Oetker Shimmer Spray, which I bought from Waitrose but I believe it's available in most supermarkets, and I think they even do a bronze version.  Spray the cookies one at a time and place them on a sheet of kitchen paper while you spray, to avoid turning your entire kitchen gold.

I bought some red, white and blue ribbon from ebay to thread through the cookies, which finished them off nicely.  If only my piping skills were better!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Fennel & Cumin Spelt Bread Rolls - adventures with spelt flour

As I mentioned in this previous post, we moved home recently and left our rented house with its nice tidy white kitchen behind.  The house we bought is a fixer upper and most of it is still a building site, covered in plaster dust, with half of the upstairs bathroom missing and no flooring anywhere other than in two bedrooms.  Most of our belongings are still in boxes (and have been since the start of June), and the novelty is wearing off very quickly – I just want it to be finished dammit!  I’ll be sharing photos of my “new” kitchen soon, and bragging about my husband’s recently-acquired DIY skills.

Soft-focus food porn? 
I actually made these bread rolls way back in June for a Jubilee picnic, but the memory card with the photos has been packed away since then and I’ve only just managed to find it.  Plus our broadband has been all over the place due to the move, and I’ve just managed to get my iMac set up again.  So I have a bit of catching up to do! 

First assemble your ingredients, Delia style
I made these to try out some new spelt flour from Sharpham Park, who have a lovely range of products made from organic spelt, including breakfast cereals with various flavours like bran flakes with berries (which I also tried, but it didn’t even make it as far as the blog because I scoffed the lot very quickly – it’s delicious), speltotto (like risotto – obviously – but using spelt instead of rice, which I do intend to try as I love risotto but like the nutty flavour of spelt) and of course the range of flour, which I was rather impressed with.  I get genuinely excited when I try out a new flour.  Is that a bit weird?  I’m sure I’m not the only one.

This recipe is adapted from one by Nigel Slater.

Fennel & Cumin Spelt Rolls


250g Sharpham Park wholegrain spelt flour
250g strong white bread flour
350ml warm water
Heaped tsp dried yeast
1 tsp Maldon salt, crushed in a pestle & mortar
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds

First add the yeast to the warm water and give it a bit of a stir about.  Leave for 10 minutes or so till it starts to foam up.  

Toast the fennel and cumin seeds in a dry frying pan over a high heat for a couple of minutes – keep them moving around with a wooden spoon to stop them burning.  Pour the toasted seeds into a pestle and mortar and bash them up a bit.  

A great stress reliever.

Now throw everything into a big bowl, give it a really good mix around until it all comes together, turn it out onto a worktop* and knead, knead, knead until you have a lovely smooth stretchy dough, which you then want to roll into a tight ball, place into an oiled bowl, cover with a piece of oiled cling film or a floury tea towel, and leave for an hour or so until it doubles in size.


Now preheat the oven to 250 degrees C, and put a roasting tin or something similar in the bottom of the oven.

Turn the dough out, gently push all the air out of it, give it a quick knead and divide into 8 pieces.  Roll each piece into a little ball, place on a floured baking tray quite close together, and cover with a tea towel.  Leave for another 40 minutes or so until they’ve puffed up and have probably stuck together.  In the meantime, boil the kettle.

Now put your little rolls in the oven, and pour some water from the kettle into the roasting tin and shut the oven door.  The steam will give your rolls a lovely crust and help them rise.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until they sound hollow when tapped underneath.  Cool on a wire rack for a bit, but do try and eat them while they’re still warm, preferably with some strong cheese and some cold meat like slices of pepperoni or chorizo.


I have to say I really did like these little rolls.  They are somehow chewier than bread made entirely from wheat flour, and despite being small are really quite substantial. 


Sharpham Park products are available from selected Sainsburys and online at their website, and the bran flakes have been on my shopping list several times now. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Random Recipes - Hummus from Claudia Roden

God bless Dom for extending the deadline for Random Recipes by an extra day!  I ran out of time over the weekend but now I can get an entry in, even if it's a really quick and simple one (although that was dictated by the book I chose and not my laziness/tardiness, believe it or not).  

The theme this month is "first and last", because Dom quite rightly recognises that the very first and very last recipes in a book often get ignored in favour of the more glamorous recipes in the middle! Due to our impending house move, our stuff is very disorganised at the moment and there are cookbooks scattered all through the house, but the first one that came to hand was A Middle Eastern Feast, by Claudia Roden (who has never written a bad recipe - I think this is an extract from the much heavier tome A New Book of Middle Eastern Food) and the very first recipe was Hummus Bi Tahina which is one of my favouritest things to eat, I can scoff it by the bucketload.  


I whipped up a batch in about twenty minutes, including cooking the chickpeas (if you have dried, unsoaked chickpeas, throw them in a pressure cooker, bring up to full pressure and cook for 15 minutes).   This recipe is adapted very slightly from Claudia's.


250g tinned chickpeas (I used about 150g dried chickpeas and cooked them as described above) - drain them but keep the water they were packed/cooked in
150g tahini (I didn't have that much left so used about 70g, but that was plenty)
2 or 3 cloves of garlic 
Juice of a couple of lemons
Salt (I use Maldon)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Paprika and chopped parsley to garnish (optional)

Crush the salt and garlic in a pestle and mortar.

Blend the chickpeas roughly in a food processor (or you could use a potato masher if you don't have a processor).  Add the other ingredients, including the crushed garlic, and process again to mix it all together.  The mix will probably be quite thick, so add enough of the cooking water (or water from the tin) to loosen it up.  I like my hummus a bit lumpy but if you prefer it to be much smoother, just keep the motor running till it's the consistency you like. 

It really is simplicity itself!  Serve with carrot and celery sticks, crusty bread or flatbread, whatever you like really.  I'm having some for lunch today in a sandwich, made with some crusty bread with black onion seeds, hummus, grated carrot and rocket.  Not sure I can even wait till lunchtime.

Claudia suggests garnishing with chopped parsley, but as you can see my parsley plant isn't being very prolific at the moment!

Thank you to the ever wonderful Dom for hosting every month :)

Here's a bonus cat photo of Pokey looking like she's up to no good.  She was very interested in the hummus!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Coffee chocolate ripple ice cream (for Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream)

For a while now I've been wanting to take part in Kavey's Bloggers Screan for Ice Cream, which makes me drool every month. Last month's theme was sorbet and I was really intending to make the effort but time got the better of me. This month, the theme is chocolate, and while I love chocolate I actually really dislike chocolate ice cream (weird, I know!) so I had to think of some sort of ice cream that involved chocolate in some other way. And it couldn't be stracciatella because I've done that before
What I came up with is rather in keeping with a theme that's been prominent on my blog over the last couple of weeks - coffee! But this has nothing to do with the other challenge I'm taking part in, this is strictly for BSFIC. I love coffee ice cream but it's really difficult to find in the shops, and when you do find it usually it's really not very nice at all (unless you happen to be in Italy), so again the diet has gone out the window and I've made some coffee chocolate ripple ice cream.

I use a Magimix Le Glacier 1.5L machine, having upgraded from the Kenwood 1.1L I used to have because I wanted a bigger capacity, but I think the mix will be fine for a smaller machine. I would kill for an ice cream machine with a built-in freezer but the budget unfortunately won't stretch that far! This recipe comes in two parts, but both parts are very easy so please don't feel put off. 

Big one for the ice cream, little one for me.



250ml semi skimmed or whole milk
Approx 150ml strong black coffee (I used a whole six-cup Bialetti pot)
4 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 tsp cornflour
300ml whipping cream

Before you start, fill the sink with cold water and add some ice cubes.

Put the milk, coffee and the seeds from the vanilla pod in a saucepan, whisk together and heat until just before it boils.

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a big bowl.

Pour the hot milk/coffee mixture onto the egg mixture slowly while constantly whisking (if you pour it all in too quickly it will cook the eggs!), and then return this mix to the saucepan. Heat it gently while stirring constantly until it thickens up enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (don't boil it, or it will curdle). What you have just made is a thin coffee custard. Pour it back into the bowl you used to whisk the eggs, add the cold whipping cream and whisk it in, and stand this in the sink full of icy water - this will stop the custard cooking. Leave it there till it cools down enough to go in the fridge, and then chill till it's really cold - preferably overnight. 

With some extra sauce drizzled over the top...


CHOCOLATE SYRUP (makes 2 jam jars full)


1 cup of cocoa powder
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 tsp cornflour, mixed together with 2 tsp cold water

Sieve the cocoa powder into a small saucepan. Add the sugar, salt, water and vanilla and whisk it all together. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Pour in the cornflour mixed with water, and whisk it in - the mixture will thicken up. Take off the heat, pour into jam jars and let cool before putting in the fridge until completely cold.

Now churn your ice cream in your ice cream machine, or if you normally just freeze it in a tub and take it out every few hours to give it a mix around, that's fine too.

When it's ready (it should still be quite soft), scoop it out into a tub and do the next bit by hand. Add a few tablespoons of the chocolate syrup to the tub and swirl it all around with a fork. Don't mix it in completely, you want to see a nice chocolatey ripple going through the ice cream. You can add as much syrup as you want.

Now stick the tub in the freezer and leave it there for another couple of hours until it's firmed up enough to scoop out and eat!

I'm sorry this recipe looks quite long, but honestly it really is very easy and the bits where you're actually involved (ie making the custard and making the syrup) probably take no more than 15 minutes for both - the syrup takes five minutes at most and is so incredibly versatile that it's worth having some in your fridge at all times to drizzle over ice cream, swirl through yoghurt or, best of all, to add a few spoonfuls to a glass of cold milk for some instant chocolate milk that's as good as the stuff you used to get when you were a kid :)

Thanks to Kavey for running such a great blog challenge, I can't wait to see everyone's recipes.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sue's chocolate chip coffee muffins

This post is dedicated to my lovely friend and workmate Sue. When I first told her about Lavazza's Coffee,Set, Match challenge, she immediately decided that I needed to make some coffee chocolate chip muffins, and for weeks afterwards she regularly harangued asked me when they would be forthcoming. 

Sue is such a sweetie that I would hate to disappoint her, so coffee chocolate chip muffins were made and delivered to work, and while a few of them were shared with other workmates, most of them accompanied a gleeful Sue home - they were most definitely enjoyed! (I may or may not have eaten one for breakfast myself.)

I decided to use some cupcake cases I found in Poundland. I really love the 1960s style pattern on these, but unfortunately you do tend to get what you pay for and during the baking process they soaked up a lot of grease and went a bit see-through - not a good look. I'm on the lookout for some nice Jubilee-style cupcakes but I live miles from the nearest Lakeland - has anyone seen any good ones in the supermarkets?

Not the best quality but what a fab pattern.

Anyway, here's the muffin recipe. If you have unexpected visitors or a cake sale you've forgotten about till the last minute, these are ideal as you can be taking them out of the oven half an hour after deciding to make them! And like my fudge recipe, this is very adaptable. Leave out the coffee, use white chocolate, and add a big handful of frozen raspberries (don't defrost them first) for a lovely summery treat.


280g self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Good pinch of salt
90g caster sugar
1 egg
250ml plain yoghurt
90ml semi skimmed or whole milk
90ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 shot of espresso (I used a Lavazza Caffè Crema Lungo Dolcemente pod)
100g chocolate, chopped (I used milk chocolate as I wanted a bit of sweetness to counterbalance the coffee, but dark would be fine, as long as it's a fairly low cocoa content)

Preheat the oven to 225ºC and get your muffin tin ready with paper cases.

Sieve the flour, bicarb and salt into a large bowl (or tip it all in and give it a whisk to get rid of any lumps).

Beat the egg and sugar together in a big measuring jug. Add the yoghurt, milk, oil, espresso and vanilla, and give it all a really good mix with a fork or small whisk.

Pour the wet stuff into the dry stuff, and fold it all together with a big spoon. Don't overmix - you want it to stay lumpy. Finish by folding in the chopped chocolate.

Divide the mixture between the paper cases (you should get 12, but if you use smaller cases like I did you might end up with 14 or 15 - if so, and you can't fit two tins in the oven, you could bake a couple in silicone cases which will hold their shape in the oven without needing to be placed into a muffin tin).

Place in the oven, immediately turn the heat down to 200ºC, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the muffins from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes till you can handle them, and then put them on a wire rack to finish cooling. They are lovely eaten while still a bit warm, as the chocolate chunks will still be melty and gooey!

Don't forget - you can win prizes  from Lavazza too!  Look out for instant win details on promotional cups of takeaway Lavazza coffee, or enter online HERE.

Prizes include pairs of tickets to Wimbledon, Lavazza A Modo Mio Favola Plus Wimbledon Limited Edition coffee machines and exclusive sets of espresso cups created especially for the tournament. 

1950s Royal Doulton espresso cup which is one of my favourites

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