Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I am so tired of having to reduce my portions all the time, I wanted to have a Sunday lunch where I could pile my plate as high as I wished and then not be racked with guilt afterwards!!  (I know Greedy should be my middle name - actually Greedy would be better than my middle name (Thanks Mother!!)).

I decided that "extra low fat cream cheese" was the answer to my woes, and do you know something - it is, in a big way.  I would even use these vegetables for guests!  They are good.

First up, I love garlic mushrooms, but with all that butter they don't belong on any virtuous menu :-(
These ones do though.

Garlic and Cream Cheese  Mushrooms

Punnet of mushrooms (250g)
One garlic clove
2 tbsp extra low fat cream cheese (Philadelphia or supermarket own brand)
1 tsp olive oil.
Small handful of dried porcini mushrooms (soaked on hot water)

Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth or a mushroom brush.
Remove the stems from the mushrooms, and chop (the stems)  finely.
Heat a frying pan and add the oil.  When sizzling add the mushroom stems, drained and squeezed dry porcini mushrooms and the garlic (grated or chopped very finely).  When soft add the cream cheese and season.

Put a teaspoon full of this mixture in each mushroom hollow and bake for approx.  20 - 30 minutes.
Serve and wait for the praise!!!

This mixture would be great with pasta too.

I know that I said that I agreed with the "life is too short to stuff a mushroom" school of thought - but I've changed my mind!!!!

I also served mashed potato, in which I substituted the usual butter and/or cream for the extra low fat cream cheese, it was fantastic, nearly as good as the real thing.

This is the answer for everyone with a family who don't run to the table the minute "Dinner" is hollered
called (I can only imagine!!!). I spotted it on the kitchenist blog - it is based on an Alice Waters recipe for Slow Cooked Buttermilk Broccoli.
This is how I made it:

Slow Cooked Buttermilk Broccoli

Large head of broccoli
4 tbsp buttermilk
zest of one lemon
1 garlic clove - grated.

Chop the broccoli up into very small pieces - you can use the stem, just peel it first.
Add the garlic and half the lemon zest.  Add a cup of water and bring to the boil. (stock would be good if serving with pasta instead of as a side dish)
Turn down the heat and simmer very gently for about an hour, checking regularly, if it starts to stick add more water.
When ready drain (if necessary) and add the rest of the lemon zest and the buttermilk (or extra low fat cream cheese) and stir vigorously - it should be semi mashed.
Season, serve and enjoy.

This is another dish that would be good served as a sauce with pasta.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I have spent all my adult (and teenage for that matter!) life either on a diet or breaking one!!  So when I came upon this recipe on Nigella's website for "Diet Brownies" it was a no brainer, I had to try them immediately.

They were quite nice, my brownie aficionado son said that they weren't the best I'd ever made but they were still nice, as I hadn't mentioned the diet bit to him, I reckon this was high praise!

The one thing worth mentioning about these brownies is that they didn't keep wonderfully, they dried out considerably within three days (and the whole point of diet brownies is that you eat them over several days, all at once kinda defeats the purpose!!)

They had a rich, deeply chocolaty taste, and a proper brownie texture (for the first two days anyway).  They gave such a chocolate hit that it cut down on the temptation to eat the whole plate full - score!!!

I know that "diet" is a dirty word these days, so I'll say that I cooked some very healthy vegetable side dishes this weekend which I'll blog about soon - they were creamy and luscious, nobody guessed that they didn't contain all sorts of creams and butters.  Happy Days!

Diet/Healthy/Less Unhealthy Than Usual Brownies
Lauren McC

50ml         Oil
150g         Caster (or brown) sugar
2               Medium Eggs (beaten)
1tsp           Vanilla Extract
50g            Cocoa Powder (your best stuff)
1/2tsp        Baking Powder
80g            Flour

Makes 18 - 20 Brownies (86 cals each)

Preheat oven to 170 C
Prepare 20x20cm brownie tin.

Mix sugar and oil.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Carefully add the cocoa, flour and baking powder.
Mix gently.
Pour batter into prepared tin (best lined with parchment paper to keep fat level right down!)
Bake 20 minutes or until done.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.


Saturday, April 24, 2010


This is another one of the cakes I prepared for my mother's afternoon tea with her friends.  I knew it would be very popular here, so all returns were accepted gratefully!!

It comes from the fantastic "Four Seasons Cookery Book" by Margaret Costa, and hits that lovely spot between cake and bread.  Ms Costa suggests eating it with cream cheese and very thin bitter chocolate, but it was eaten either plain or with banana here.  I have already been asked to make it again - so that's a good sign!!

The original recipe called for all dried apricot, but I used half apricot and half cranberries, I felt it gave an extra layer taste wise and I thought that the little red flecks looked great beside the orange colored ones.

I made this cake using lbs and oz - not really sure why, perhaps it's just that it felt so old fashioned!

Apricot and Cranberry Tea Bread

2 1/2oz (70g)             dried apricots (chopped finely)
2 1/2oz (70g)             dried cranberries
12oz (350g)               self raising flour
1/4 tsp                       salt
3oz (85g)                   caster sugar
2oz (55g)                   coarsely chopped walnuts (I used pecans)
2                                eggs
9tbsp (135ml)             milk
2oz (55g)                   melted butter
zest of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line and prepare a 2lb (900g) loaf tin

Soak the apricots is hot water overnight (I didn't bother my apricots were very moist).
Sift the flour and salt.
Stir in the sugar, apricots and cranberries, then the nuts and lemon zest.
Beat the eggs into the milk.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix gently to a slack batter.
Fold in the melted butter.
Pour into the prepared tin, and bake for 75 minutes, or until a skewer (or stick of spaghetti) comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for 15 minutes and then turn out to a wire rack.


Friday, April 23, 2010


I love this stuff, it has the ability to change a "thrown together in a couple of minutes" dish into a "this is something that I have made with care and time" dish.  All this and yet so ugly!!

This is onion mush/onion confit/caramelized onions, and whatever it is called it is a wonderful thing to have a healthy supply of in your freezer (I take this so much to heart that I feel a low grade panic when my stock dwindles past a certain level!!)

I would recommend that you make onion mush on a day when you know you will be home as it does take quite a long time to cook, although if you follow Nigella's (it is of course a Nigella recipe)  directions exactly it could be made in a couple of hours, mine however takes about six hours - two reasons for this, I overfill my pans (just can't resist putting those extra onions in!!) and my hob's low setting is very, very low.

What do I use my onion mush for?  It's first function is always to make the best sandwich of all time, just take your bread/roll smear with mustard, then with the onion and finally with your meat/cheese of choice - heaven on a plate!!  Secondly it is a wonderful vegetable/garnish with a steak supper, the deep savoury sweetness of the onion is so much better than any harsh quick cooked type of onion.  Thirdly, and the reason why I make so much of the mush, it simplifies and improves the whole casserole and soup making process.  All you do is add a 50g (equals one onion) bag of mush to your dish at the beginning, (after browning your meat for a casserole) add the rest of the ingredients and you end up with a dish that tastes deep, comforting and cared for!

Also, and this is important, you can throw a casserole together in the morning, leave it in the oven (with the timer on) or slow cooker and you do not smell of onion for the day - reason enough to make it just there!!

Because the mush freezes so well I make a double batch, but this is the recipe as originally created by Ms Lawson.

Onion Mush

1 kg                  onions
1 heaped tbsp   butter
4 tbsp               olive oil
100ml               Marsala (I have used sherry and it was fine)
75ml                 boiling water

Peel the onions, then chop very thin (best done in the food processor).
Put a heavy based frying pan on a very low heat ( I use my Le Creuset casseroles) you might need two pans.
Add the butter and oil to the pan and immediately add the onion.
Add salt, press down the onions and add the Marsala and boiling water.
Cover with tin foil pressed down onto the onions shiny side down. (I actually cover the onions with greaseproof paper and then tinfoil)
Seal the pan with another layer of tinfoil and the lid.
Cook for about 2 hours at the very lowest setting (using a diffuser if necessary)
Check after and hour and give it a good stir, to make sure there is no sticking (if there is the heat is too high)
When your mush is very soft take off the lid and coverings and turn up the heat to evaporate any juices.
It is ready when the mush is soft and caramel coloured.
Cool and bag up into 50g portions.

I find that when I make the mush I am on a roll, and therefore use up the chicken carcases I have stored in the freezer to make stock.  I don't bother washing out the casseroles - add the chicken bones, an onion, carrot, stick of celery some herbs and of course water, and in no time my freezer is full with stock and mush and I can feel that I have this "Suzie Homemaker" stuff cracked (until I spot the pile of laundry to be done!!!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I really enjoyed the Bizcocho I blogged about here, and  fancied ringing the changes with it.  I came across a bottle of coconut liqueur (bought on holidays years and years ago) during a recent clear out, and the little bulb in my head pinged!  A coconut and lime cake (actually there is a possibility that I am addicted to lime glaze and will use any excuse to make it!!! - expect to see Lime and Lime Glaze Cake very soon!!).

I added a fist full of coconut chips and 2 tbsp of the coconut liqueur to the mixture - and it tasted divine.  I actually had to take half the cake to my bookclub meeting to stop me eating it!  They loved it too.

Texturally, I think it might have been better to use dessicated coconut instead of the coconut chips, or maybe to have soaked the chips in the liqueur.  But the fact that the chips were a tiny bit hard is the only blot in the copybook of this cake - more than compensated by the taste.

Primroses are my favourite flower, and I thought I would share a picture with you (think I need to sign up for photography classed very, very soon!!)

I couldn't sleep last night, so after I had drafted this post (so far) I decided to use up the last of the greek yogurt.  This time I went with hubby's favourite flavours - rum and raisin (well actually  sultanas, but hey!).
To ring the changes I used 1/3 wholemeal flour instead of all plain, and it worked really well - his taste runs to the more healthy, so this was perfect for him.  Actually the cake is so soft that it could even take half wholemeal.  The rum was subtle but there, and the (presoaked) sultanas were moist and juicy.

I presoaked (about 2 hours) 100g of sultanas (next time will use 200g) in 3 tbsp of rum.  Then made the cake as normal - 1 tub yogurt, 1 tub oil, 2 tubs sugar. 1 tub wholemeal flour, 2 tubs plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 3 eggs (problem with one of my eggs, so I only used 3 and the cake was fine), finally added the sultanas and rum.  Could it be easier? - my only problem was to get to the oven before the timer went off and woke the house!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The next instalment in the "find the best ever Brownie recipe" quest.  These are Cream Cheese Marble Brownies from Delicious Magazine.  They had a fabulous texture, just perfectly moist and squidgy.  They tasted pretty good too (they had quite a strong mocha flavour), the cream cheese part didn't in any way mar the smooth chocolate hit which says "brownie" to me - it was a nice (slightly tangy) taste and texture interlude.

But all was not perfect in my brownie world, when I turned them out of the tin, this is what was before me:

Craters!, huge (well big) chocolate craters in the bottom of my sheet of brownies!!  I don't know what I did wrong - can anyone help?  The brownies tasted fine - there was no difference in texture around the holes, I just don't know why it happened :-{

Normally the lack of aesthetic beauty would not be an issue (I subscribe to the "beauty is only skin deep, it's what's inside that matters" school of thought!) but I had made the brownies (and a couple of other cakes) for my mother who had invited a few of her pals round for afternoon tea (how civilised is that!!) and I wanted everything to be perfect.  Luckily as you can see there was a salvageable section, so I used that. (every cloud has a silver lining - they enjoyed the off cuts here!!)  The brownies were the hit of the tea - the ladies even took some home for later!!

Cream Cheese Marble Brownies

145g         butter
200g         dark chocolate (70%)
100ml        freshly made strong coffee*
225g         caster sugar
1 tsp         vanilla extract
3              med eggs
85g          plain flour

Marbling Mixture

150g        cream cheese
60g          caster sugar**
1              med egg beaten
1/2tsp      vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 C
Prepare 20x20cm tin (I lined it with parchment paper)

Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water.
Stir in the coffee and then cool slightly.
Stir in the sugar and vanilla.
Whisk in the eggs until smooth.
Add the flour and mix gently until glossy.

In another bowl beat the cream cheese until smooth.
Add the egg, sugar and vanilla and mix until combined.

Spoon the chocolate mixture into the prepared tin.
Add the cheese mixture and use a knife to create the marble effect.

Bake 30 - 40 minutes (took mine longer)

*I used a double espresso made in my new toy, but that was probably a bit too strong.

** I used golden caster sugar, but you would get a better colour contrast if you used white.


P.S.  Nigella's Snow Flecked Brownies still hold the crown!!

Monday, April 19, 2010


I recently heard on the radio that cinnamon (and turmeric) are the new super foods - at last a super food I love!! (Actually that's not really true, I'm very fond of blueberry muffins:-}})  This cake is all about the cinnamon, so I'm thinking health food (!)

I was invited to my sister's friend's house - actually I angled for an invite,  the reasons for this (rare, I hope) lack of manners:  firstly I'm very fond of  F. and think she's just the best craic,  and secondly her house is soon to be on T.V.  on a  "interior designer does up your house" type programme.  I had vicariously lived through the "will we be picked, won't we be picked" stage and then the ups and downs of having a T.V. crew in your home, along with the painters, decorators and carpenters (low stress stuff, I don't think), AND continue to live family life at the same time - and I was really looking forward to seeing the results.

Anyway the house was FANTASTIC, a beautiful, practical family home, but with extra - extra welcoming, extra practical, extra coordinated, extra elegant and extra gorgeous.  Can't wait until the programme is aired.

I wanted to bring something nice along when I visited, and decided on this cinnamon cake,  I knew it was quick and easy, which was important as I had to make it before breakfast. 

Cinnamon Cake

1 1/2 cups     flour
1 cup            sugar
2 1/2 tsp       baking powder
1 tsp             cinnamon (scant)
1/3 cup         vegetable shortening*
1/4 tsp          salt
1/2 cup         milk
1 egg            beaten

Preheat oven to 180 C.
Prepare a 20x20cm tin (normal brownie size)

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, shortening, cinnamon and salt and leave to rest (overnight is fine, or however long suits).
After resting (or not) add the milk and egg.
Pour mixture into prepared tin and then cover with:

1/4 cup      butter - softened
1/2 cup      sugar
3/4 tsp       cinnamon

Combine and then spread/sprinkle/spoon over the top.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes - until golden and a skewer comes out clean.

*Just a quick note on the shortening - it is an ingredient that I have avoided through the years - it just seems a bit yuuk (great vocabulary!!)  But I took advice from people who know alot more than I do and was promised that it is essential for perfect pastry, and they are probably right.  Anyway the pastry has acclimatised me to shortening and so I used it in this recipe with barely a quiver (!) and it tasted really good.  The girls were full of praise, and F told my sister that she finished it off within 2 days (has to be a good sign!)


Friday, April 16, 2010


I made the slow cooked chicken again this week, reused the oil from the previous time - it was delicious, even nicer than the first time.  The reason that I reattempted the dish so soon was because I needed the leftovers!  My son had been at a friend's house, and had "the best lunch ever", well there was a challenge is ever I heard one!!  I phoned his friend's Mum to get the recipe .... chicken pie, made with chicken, a can of Campbell's chicken soup and ready made pastry.

Well I could do that, and even better it (famous last words ... pride comes before a fall etc. etc!!! .... I should have known).  I had the lovely chicken jelly left from the slow roast chicken, so I made a roux using some of the chickeny (!) oil and flour - added all the jelly and some chicken stock to replace the soup.  To this I added cooked chicken and some caramelized onions, covered with all butter puff pastry, baked it for half an hour and the result was ...... "It's O.K. not as good as X's Mum's though".  In his defense I remember the same phenomenon, where things tasted more exotic and exciting in my friend's homes.

I have to say that I thought it was really good, an intense, rich chicken flavour, and a wonderful way to use up all the scraps from a roast chicken.  If I were feeding a non veg-phobic person, I would bung in any leftover vegetables I had - carrot, peppers, asparagus, broccoli even potatoes would all be good.

The chicken and chicken gravy.

Rolled out the pastry between two sheets of cling film (less mess, less stress!).  I thought my "Pie" looked good.  Although you will see by the picture of the finished pie that I overstretched my pastry, as it came away from one side of the dish.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Man oh man, these cupcakes are the business!!  The recipe comes from "The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook", another book I haven't cooked from before (she says blushing).  They are lusciously rich and gorgeous, with a definite vanilla flavour - which I love.  I halved the icing mixture making half vanilla and the other half chocolate (to appeal to certain person chez moi!!).

I received a compliment and a request yesterday (no surer way to get any recipe blogged!!!) from K, who needed a really easy cupcake recipe and this is definitely it - no need to cream the butter and sugar (if you were clever enough to take the butter out of the fridge and it is at room temperature that is) you just mix half the ingredients, separately mix the other half and then combine.  Could that be easier??

Hummingbird Vanilla Cupcakes

120g       plain flour
140g       caster sugar
1 1/2tsp  baking powder
40g         butter - room temperature
120ml     whole milk
1             medium egg
1/4tsp     vanilla extract.

Preheat oven to 170 C
Line you bun tray with paper cases (12 if large, 18 if small)

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and butter with your mixer's paddle attachment if you have one - otherwise use what you have, beat on a slow speed until the mixture has a sandy consistency, then add 60ml of the milk gradually and beat until incorporated.
In another bowl, whisk the egg, vanilla extract and the other 60ml of milk and then pour into the flour mixture.
Beat until smooth (remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate everything) Don't over mix.
Spoon the mixture into the cases, 2/3 full and bake for 15 - 25 minutes (depending on size) until a light golden colour (and a skewer comes out clean).
Allow to cool and then ice.

Vanilla Icing

250g        icing sugar - sifted
80g          butter - room temperature
25ml        milk
1/4tsp     vanilla extract

Beat the sugar and butter.
Separately combine milk and vanilla and add this spoon by spoon to the sugar mixture.
When all the milk is incorporated beat on high for at least 5 minutes 10 is better.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I am making a middle of the year resolution, in order to curb my cook book buying addiction, I hereby promise to make at least one dish from each new book I buy within a fortnight - starting next week!!!

While gearing myself up to this, I decided I'd better use some of my more recent purchases - "The Australian Women's Weekly - The Complete Book of Modern Entertaining", it is a lovely looking book, fantastic photography and very doable recipes.

I have made pizza before, without much success (could be the yeast phobia issue!!) my pizza bases were too thick and spongy - I like my pizza thin and crispy!  But I knew from all my favourite Australian blogs that the AWW are ultra reliable, so I decided to take the bull by the horns (so to speak) and give it a go.  My favourite pizza restaurant is "The Steps of Rome" off Grafton Street in Dublin, and they make a fantastic potato and rosemary pizza - and when I saw one in this book - I knew it was for me.

The pizza base recipe makes enough for two large pizzas, so I made one potato and one asparagus and tomato.

The base was really easy to make - I used the kitchen aid mixer.  I found it easy to roll out to the desired thickness (or actually thinness!)  The recipe called for raw potato, but I have a "thing" about undercooked potato so I decided to use up the previous nights left over roasted baby potatoes, and that was a good decision the pizza was delicious - I just spread the sliced potato over the uncooked base (which I spread with some goats cheese) then sprinkled with chopped rosemary and maldon salt, drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil over and popped into the oven.

As I was on a "use up the leftovers" roll, I chose to use the roasted asparagus and tomatoes which I had stored in the fridge.  I spread some "Bunalun" (an excellent product) concentrated tomato puree over the base and then placed the veg on top.  I then cut up a ball of mozzarella and distributed the pieces over the top.  The result was a deeply flavoured topping over a light and crispy base.  Good stuff!

I am having a problem with the alignment of this post  - the only thing I can  think to do is post the recipe for the  pizza base separately, and then publish this post. I'm really sorry about this!!


Pizza Base
7g          dry yeast
1/2 tsp   caster sugar
180ml    warm water
300g      plain flour (I used bread flour)
1 tsp      salt
2 tbsp    extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp    polenta (corn meal)

Mix the yeast, sugar and water together, allow to stand (covered) for about 10 minutes or until frothy.
Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of your mixer.
Add the yeast mixture and olive oil - mix to a soft dough.  Add extra water if necessary.
Knead the dough until smooth and elastic about 10 minutes by hand, 6 by machine.
Take the dough out of the bowl with one hand, oil the bowl with the other and then replace the dough (saving washing up!)
Leave covered in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl and massage the air out (AWW tell you to punch it out - but I'm too nice!!)
Turn on the oven at 240 C.
Knead on a floured surface until smooth.
Divide the dough in half, and roll each half to your desired thickness - about 20x35cm.
Place on a oiled (or floured) baking tray.
Sprinkle the dough with polenta and prick the base with a fork.
Cover with your topping of choice.
Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until it looks ready.


Sunday, April 11, 2010


After a wonderful lunch in Dublin on Friday, we popped into town to our favourite shops.  I headed to Fallon and Byrne - and loaded up on lovely things.  Their tomatoes were like those  I imagine all you lucky Australian, American and Continental European readers take for granted - but which are unusual on these shores, even in the summertime!  (unless you grow your own)  I bought loads and had some on toast for supper - but I felt that something more was needed in homage to their wonderfulness!!!

I decided upon filo bundles - I painted my sheets of filo pastry with a good extra virgin olive oil (think I'll try melted butter next time), layered them up  and cut them to size.  I spread some Carluccio's black olive tapenade (the best thing ever to come in a jar) on each.  I then chopped up some tomato and placed it on the tapenade and finally adorned this with a teaspoon of mascarpone and two teaspoons of grated parmesan cheese (although I didn't bother with grating the cheese!), salt and pepper.

I then gathered up the edges of the filo to make money bag type bundles, painted with some more of the olive oil, sprinkled with some maldon salt and hey presto:

I was really delighted with the way this dish turned out, there was a lovely contrast between the crunch of the pastry and the soft meldingness (!) of the cheesy tomatoes.  The deeply flavoured juices flowed onto the salad when the pastry bundle was cut into, making the best dressing ever!

This dish is definitely a keeper, next time I might make them a bit smaller - I made four bundles from a packet of filo - six would have been perfect.  I think that pesto would be a good replacement if there were no tapenade to hand, and maybe some caramelised onion would be good too.

Tomato Filo Bundles

1 packet filo pastry (270g)
2 tbsp (heaped) black olive tapenade
6 medium sized tomatoes or equivalent
6 tsp  mascarpone cheese
12 tsp grated parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 180 C

Cover the pastry you are not working on with a tea towel.
Prepare the pastry by painting  a sheet with oil or melted butter and covering with another sheet and repeating the process.  I used my pastry three sheets deep.  Cut to size - mine were 25x25cm - but  25x15cm might be better.
Spread the center of each pastry with the tapenade (or pesto) and then one chopped tomato and one tsp mascarpone and two tsp parmesan, and a grind of pepper.
Pull up the pastry around the tomato mixture to make bundles.
Paint with some olive oil and sprinkle with some maldon salt.
Bake for about 15 - 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
Serve on a very lightly dressed salad bed.


Saturday, April 10, 2010


The plums looked great at the supermarket recently so I bought a job lot!  Then came home and had to decide what to do with them!!

I made a batch of my plum chutney (photos not great) and then decided to use some of my precious all butter puff pastry to make a plum tarte tatin - and I have to say it was pastry well used.  Sometimes I find tarte tatin too sweet and cloying, but as the plums weren't too ripe this dessert had just the right sweet, tart combination.

I used David Roche's recipe (from the Avoca demonstration) and it worked perfectly.  I allowed my sugar to brown much further than ever before - very proud I kept my nerve as I find molten sugar quite scary!!

Here's what I did.

Melt the sugar and water (without stirring) until the syrup becomes a deep golden brown colour.

Pour the caramel into an oven proof dish (best of you have a pan that can go in the oven - but I don't) then arrange the halved and stoned plums as attractively as possible (more important with a round pan) over the sweet juices.  I then cooked the plums for 15 minutes as they were under ripe and I wanted them 20 minutes away from being done before I added the pastry.

                       Mr Brownieville thought I should serve it like this.

                                          But I had to do as instructed!!

Plum Tarte Tatin

75ml           water
100g           caster sugar (I used vanilla sugar and it imparted a lovely flavour)
20g             butter
8                 plums (or however many your pan/dish will take)
250g           puff pastry

Preheat oven to 200 C

Heat the sugar and water until it becomes a golden colour, do not stir as this will crystallize the caramel.
Stir in the butter.
Arrange the fruit in the pan in which you have made the caramel (if it is ovenproof) otherwise pour the caramel into an oven proof dish.  Arrange the fruit as nicely as possible.  Cook if necessary.
Roll out the pastry to the shape of your dish, but slightly larger.
Place the pastry over the fruit and tuck in the edges.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the juices bubble up at the sides.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.
Carefully flip the tart onto your serving plate.

I served this with home made rum ice-cream, but vanilla would be great.


Thursday, April 8, 2010


Bonanza (?!?) sorry about that - felt like a bit of alliteration and that was the best I could come up with!  Anyway I did have a bit of a bread baking marathon this weekend - you see Mr/Ms Nobody (never ever me!) accidentally turned the thermostat in the fridge way, way down, and we ended up with an oversupply of sour milk (it was organic milk so there was no way I would throw it out) hence the bountiful bread baking (I am going to have to stop this).

A very kind and generous friend had given me Darina Allen's "Forgotten Skills of Cooking" for Christmas, which I am really enjoying, I know her tone can be a bit home economics teacher, but she really knows her stuff.  I love some of the little touches in the book - being told to "fill the bowl with cold water so it will be easier to wash later" really appeals to me.  So far I have used it for jam and pickle recipes mainly, but thought the glut of sour milk was my chance to tackle the soda bread section.  I made the White Soda Bread, Beginner's Brown Soda Bread, Mummy's Brown Soda Bread and Bastible Bread - told you it was a marathon!!!

The Bastible Bread was probably the most interesting of the batch (pun not intended!!), I really love the No Knead Bread by Jim Lahey - which is baked in a lidded heavy casserole in the oven, so when I saw a soda bread using this baking method I had to try it - the outcome was really really good, the crust is softer than a normal soda bread and the bread has a spongier texture.  Darina sometimes cooks this in an actual bastible (over the fire) but that's a step too far for me - and anyway the oven version tastes great.

The white soda is just your standard bread recipe, it can be found in many cook books, not that that is a bad thing - there is a reason that it appears time and time again - it is good!  It is also wonderful toasted for a day or two after making.  It was great toasted with chutney and cheese.

I found "Mummy's Bread" a bit boring and uninteresting and won't bother with the recipe here.  The Beginner's Bread was good,  I used treacle as the sweetener as I feel it adds a savoury type sweetness to the bread.  All the breads called for a teaspoon of salt in the mixture, I feel that this is too much and use about 1/3 of a teaspoon - my attempt at being healthy!!

White Soda Bread

450g             white flour
1 tsp (level)    salt
1 tsp (level)    bread soda (bicarbonate)
350 - 400ml   buttermilk or sour milk
1 tsp               sugar (my addition)

Preheat oven to 230 C
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Sieve the bicarbonate of (bread) soda into a bowl with the flour, sugar and salt.
Make a well in the centre and add 3/4 of the milk.  Mix with your fingers adding more milk if needed to give you a soft dough (not wet or sticky).
Form the dough into a round shape and place on the baking sheet, it should be about 2.5cm deep.
Cut a cross into the bread - this step is important, it allows the air (and fairies!!) to escape.
Lower the oven temperature to 200 C and bake the bread for 45 minutes.
To check if done, tap the bottom of the bread - if it sounds hollow it's done - if not put it back in for 5 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.

Bastible Bread

225g        plain white flour
225g        wholemeal flour
1 level tsp salt (I use less)
1 tsp        bread (bicarb) soda - barely rounded
450ml      buttermilk or sour milk
1 tsp        sugar (my addition)

Preheat oven to 230 C, and place a heavy casserole with lid in it.

Darina tells you to line the casserole with silicone paper - but I think it would be better to flour it just before the bread goes in - it won't stick at this high heat.

Mix the flours in a large bowl add the salt and sugar and sieve in the bicarbonate of soda. 
Make a well in the centre and add the milk, and mix with your fingers.
At this stage Darina tells you to tip the dough onto a floured work surface and tidy up with your hands - mine was far too wet to do this (and anyway why bother messing up the kitchen!) so I just put the dough into the prepared (with paper or flour) and preheated casserole. Be very careful here IT IS VERY HOT.
Cut a deep cross into the loaf.
Bake for 40-50 minutes,  until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.  Again be careful of the hot casserole
Remove from the casserole and cool on a wire rack.

Beginner's Brown Soda Bread

400g        wholemeal flour
75g          plain flour
1 tsp         salt (I used less)
1 tsp         bicarbonate of (bread) soda (level)
1              egg
1 tbsp       sunflower oil
1 tsp         honey/treacle/sugar (I used tbsp treacle)
425ml       buttermilk or sour milk

Prepare a loaf tin (approx. 23x13) oil it or line with parchment paper
Preheat oven to 200 C.

Put flours and salt in a large bowl, sieve in the bicarbonate of soda.
Add the egg, oil, treacle and milk and mix well - be sure to break the yolk!
Add more milk if necessary the mixture should be slightly sloppy.
Pour into the prepared tin.
Bake for 1 hour or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
Cool on a wire rack.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Over on Delicious, Delicious, Delicious - Mr P. has been waxing lyrical about this wonderful, super easy, all in one bowl, no measuring equipment needed, change it to your taste and/or mood cake.  I have to attest that he's right on the money.  It is the business!!

The cake is based on a Spanish recipe, and uses a tub of yogurt and then uses the tub to measure out the rest of the ingredients (except for a teaspoon of baking powder).  Mr P. has flavoured his with lemon zest and it looks fantastic http://deliciousdeliciousdelicious.blogspot.com/2010/04/bizcocho.html.

I decided to go the coffee route (a well travelled road!!!) and I added instant espresso powder to both the cake mixture and to the glaze - and even if I say it myself - it is really, really good.  The texture was that perfect state between soft and spongy and moist and dense.  A few walnuts thrown into the batter would have been good too.

I am looking forward to ringing the changes with this one,  lemon (of course), lime (my mouth is watering at the thought) and orange all appeal.  For these you would zest your fruit and add this to the cake batter and then use the juice to make the glaze.

This is the perfect recipe to give to anyone with a badly equipped kitchen - all you need is a bowl, 2 spoons and a loaf tin and "Bob's your uncle!"


1   tub of yogurt (mine was 150g)
1   tub measure of oil (I used ground nut)
2   tub measures of sugar
3   tub measures of plain flour
4   eggs
1   tsp baking powder
1   tbsp instant espresso powder (or whatever flavouring you
     wish vanilla/lemon zest/ lime zest there's a long list!)

Preheat oven to 180 C
Prepare your loaf tin (I just line mine with parchment paper)

Pour yogurt into mixing bowl.
Fill pot with oil and add to the yogurt.
Add the sugar, eggs and flavouring  and mix well.
Add the flour and baking powder and stir gently until well combined.
Pour mixture into prepared tin and bake until a skewer comes out clean. (This took 55 minutes in my oven but start checking at 40 minutes)
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

When cool prepare the glaze.


3 tbsp  icing sugar sifted.
1 tbsp  extra strong espresso (or juice of choice or water and vanilla)

Sieve icing sugar into a bowl and add as much of the liquid as needed to make a smooth glaze.

Decorate the cake with the glaze.


Monday, April 5, 2010


Feel it's time for some more brownies, and I have to say that these ones go straight to ........... the bottom of the list :o((

I have a veggie phobic child, well teenager (sad I know!) and I still pounce on any recipe that hides a few valuable minerals and vitamins, and I really pounced on this one.  When said teenager tasted it he said that it tasted of broccoli!!!  It didn't really taste of broccoli, or even of beetroot, but it did have a slightly savory taste (not that that was a bad thing exactly just unexpected) but what I really didn't like was the texture, the tiny slivers of beetroot had a slightly slimy feeling in the mouth - not exactly what I'm after in a sweet treat.

On all other fronts the brownies were great, beautifully moist and chocolaty, and I wonder if I had pureed the beetroot would it have been better than grating them?

Anyway here's the recipe, should you be trying to hide those vitamins and minerals!

Beetroot Brownies
Based on River Cottage Autumn Recipe

250g          dark chocolate (70%)
250g          butter
250g          caster sugar
3                eggs
150g          self raising flour
250g          boiled beetroot - grated but pureed would be better.
                  (I used the vacuum packed cooked beetroot and grated it)
                  (obviously avoid the pickled ones!!!!)

Preheat oven to 180 C
Line a 20cm x 20cm brownie tin

Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
Whisk the sugar and eggs together.
Allow the chocolate and butter to cool slightly and then add to the egg mixture.
Fold in the flour and then the beetroot.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 - 40 minutes.
Allow to cool in the tin.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Happy Easter to each and all, hope you are having a wonderful day.

Today we had this nummy cake for dessert, it is a Nigella Lawson delight of course (afraid I'm getting a bit predictable!).  I have been waiting for an occasion to make the Nutella Cake for a while, and Easter (the feast of chocolate!!) is just the day.  I had hidden away a jar of nutella from my last shopping trip (somehow they just seem to disappear) and was all set.

The one draw back on the preparation of this cake was the mess....

seemed to use up an awful lot of dishes!!!

Worth it though - it tasted wonderful, imagine a light, mousy, textural nutella and you have it.  My mother, who is not a nut person (I was going to say "nutty maybe" but I won't!!) loved it, she even went back for seconds (despite the diet:-o).

Here it is as I made it:

Nutella Cake

6           large eggs, separated
pinch of salt
125g     softened butter
400g     nutella
1tbsp    rum (or Frangelico or water)
100g    hazelnuts - ground
100g    dark chocolate - melted


100g     dark chocolate
100ml    cream
1tbsp     rum
1 pkt candy covered chocolate eggs

Preheat oven to 180 C
Prepare 23cm spring form tin

Whip the egg whites and salt until stiff.
In another bowl beat the butter and Nutella together, then add the rum.
Add the egg yolks and ground hazelnuts then fold in the cooled melted chocolate.
Stir in a spoon of the egg white to loosen the mixture, fold in the rest of the egg white gently to retain as much air as possible.
Pour into the prepared tin and cook for 40 minutes or until the cake begins to come away from the sides. (This actually took about 55 minutes in my oven)
When ready remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
When the cake is cold, make the icing.
In a heavy bottomed pan heat the cream, chocolate and rum gently.
When the chocolate is melted remove from the heat and whisk until it becomes smooth.
Pour over the cake and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then scatter with the chocolate Easter eggs (or with 100g of toasted hazelnuts as in the original recipe)


Saturday, April 3, 2010


I was invited to a charity coffee morning recently (great timing as I am planning one for a friend who is going to Zambia) and didn't want to arrive with one arm longer than the the other, so I whipped up these little cakettes to bring along.

I know self praise is no praise but they were just yumm, they are  chocolate mini muffins with a Baileys icing, a combination made in culinary heaven!!

There was, of course, no need to bring anything to C's house, the spread of fantastic baked goodies was just amazing.  I really wanted to try everything, but was afraid of looking like too much of a pig!!!!  I did try a most delicious lemon tray bake (not the whole tray, just a (large) piece), it was so light and tasty.  There were home made meringues with cream and strawberries, brownies, coffee cake, chocolate cake, carrot cake - you name it and it was there.  C said that all the recipes came from Mary Berry's cake bible (another book to add to my list).  The coffee was really good too, which I think is  important - there's nothing worse than nasty coffee!!

Back at the home front, the left overs went down very well, thankfully they were all gone before I could do more damage to my feeble attempt at healthier eating!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Baileys Icing

200g    self raising flour
50g      cocoa
200g    caster sugar
75g      dark chocolate (70%) chopped
150g    melted butter
100ml  soured cream
2          eggs

Preheat oven to 150 C
Line bun/mini muffin tray with paper cases.

Sieve the flour and cocoa into a bowl.
Add the chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips), eggs, cream and melted butter.
Stir until smooth  and fudgy.
Fill cases 3/4 full and bake for approx 15 minutes for mini muffins or 20 minutes for cupcakes -
test before these times with a skewer or stick of spaghetti.
Remove from the oven to cool.

Baileys Icing

175g     icing sugar
60g       soft butter
2tbsp    Baileys

Sieve the sugar into a bowl add the butter and beat well, add the Baileys and continue to beat - the longer you beat icing the lighter it will be (you really need an electric beater for this).

Decorate the cup cakes with the icing as you wish.


Friday, April 2, 2010


I was thinking of calling this post "Keeping Hubbie Happy" but just could not bring myself to do it!  But this is the dish that keeps "the other half" really happy, and the really great thing is that it is simplicity itself.  How can a dish so simple bring so much pleasure?

It really is as simple as it looks, halloumi cheese - a wonderful Greek hard cheese, which keeps (almost) forever in the fridge, fried in some olive oil.  Red peppers roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the crispy cheese to the roasting peppers for the last five minutes. Put some baby potatoes in to roast at the same time as the peppers ... Bing Bang Bosh dinner is ready.

When I'm feeling very generous (!) instead of ordinary peppers, I serve the cheese with Piedmont Peppers.

Piedmont Peppers

3      red peppers
3      tomatoes or 6 cherry tomatoes*
4      anchovy fillets + oil from the tin
2      cloves of garlic
basil leaves

Preheat oven to 180 C

Half the peppers and remove the seeds.  Quarter the tomatoes (if using large) and divide between the pepper halves.  Chop up the anchovy and garlic and spread this mixture over the tomatoes.  Put one teaspoon of oil (mixture of anchovy oil and olive oil) into each pepper half.  Bake for about 45 mins.

*I skin the tomatoes if I am having guests, otherwise they are fine with skins on.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Every month on the Nigella Lawson website there is a "cookalong" whereby one member nominates a recipe for everyone to try, then at the end of the month everyone who has tried it posts their thoughts, tweaks etc.
This months dish was "pasta salad primavera"  - I'm really glad the this dish was nominated, as it had never jumped out at me as one to try.  Firstly orzo pasta is hard to source (and I'm not big on pasta salads), secondly shelling all those broad beans didn't appeal and finally I thought that all those peas and beans might be a bit "samey".

Of course I need not have worried, the fact that the pasta is so tiny negated my pasta salad aversion, there was absolutely no stodginess.  The garlic and lemon zest somehow made all the different types of peas and beans zing.

The original recipe called for 500g of pasta which I knew would be way too much (there is no way I could sell pasta salad to the rest of the family in this cold weather!!) so I went with half portions, I also changed some of the vegetables to suit what was fresh or available in the freezer.

I would recommend this salad (the original recipe can be found on Nigella.com) but feel that it would be more appropriate to summer weather.  I'm not sure that I would bother with the broad beans again, particularly if I was using this salad for a party, the shelling of that amount of beans would be very time consuming - if life is too short to stuff a mushroom, it's certainly too short to shell kilos of broad beans!!!

Another plus for this salad is that it can be made well in advance, which is unusual with salads.  I ate it for lunch the day after I made it -  I just added some broccoli and spinach (from the previous night's dinner) - it was delicious.

My version of:

Pasta Salad Primavera

250g     orzo (puntarelle) pasta
250g     fine asparagus (cut into bite sized pieces)
250g     broad beans (I used frozen)
100g     soya beans (frozen)
100g     fine beans (frozen)(cut into bite sized pieces)
100g     snow peas (cut into bite sized pieces)
2 tbsp   extra virgin olive oil
1           clove of garlic
1           lemon. Juice and Zest.
1 pkt     chives - chopped

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.  When cooked drain and stir the olive oil, grated garlic and lemon zest through.
Cook the fresh vegetables one at a time until cooked through but with some bite.  When cooked refresh in ice cold water.
Plung the frozen vegetables in boiling water to defrost, then shell the broad beans (or cook then shell if using fresh)
Drain all the cooked beans and peas and add to the pasta.  Dress with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Add extra olive oil if needed.

Of course alter the vegetables to your taste, I would stay with all green though.