A very special birthday cake!

August 08, 2012

Doll House cake for my beautiful niece

No recipe from me from this little lovely, the cake is a very simple vanilla sponge with butter cream icing.  

Holly likes to cook is back and as full of beautiful and delicious recipes as ever before! Now with a new surname I shall be cooking up a storm in the kitchen and popping the delights I create on the blog for all to see and share. Keep your eyes peeled for very exciting things happening at Holly likes to cook in the next few months, I shall keep you posted!

I have missed my kitchen and am chuffed to be back with my wooden spoon in hand, I hope you're happy to have me back!


No cook lemon cheesecake

May 21, 2012

Sweet and soft cheesecake filling sat on top of a crunchy
and slightly salty biscuit base
This little dessert beauty is so simple to make, it can be whipped up in the afternoon and be popped in the fridge ready to serve with a flourish come pudding time!


Makes 4 individual cheesecakes

6 digestive biscuits
50g salted butter
200g cream cheese
300ml double cream
2 lemons
100g icing sugar
1 pack of lemon jelly

Chop up your butter and and place it in a saucepan on a low heat to melt slowly so that is doesn't colour.
In a sandwich bag, crush your digestive biscuits using a rolling pin. Be a little gentle as otherwise you will burst the bag and you will cover yourself and kitchen with biscuit crumbs.
Pour your biscuit crumbs into the melted butter and stir so that the crumbs become a glistening, sticky mass that looks like golden wet sand. 

Use cookie cutters as moulds for your cheesecakes, this does mean you'll need 4 that are all the same size, about 3 inches in diameter. You can also make one large cheesecake by using a cake tin that have a spring form base, this makes it a lot easier to remove the cake when it's set.

If you are using the cookie cutters as I did, place the rings on greaseproof paper on top of a plate or tray that can be placed in the fridge. Share the biscuit crumbs between the rings and press down into a compressed biscuit base using the back of a large spoon. Pop the bases in the fridge for the butter to set and the bases to solidify.

Now whip up your cream until it is quite thick and stiff, using an electric hand whisk. Squeeze in the juice form both of the lemons and grate the zest from both lemons into the mixing bowl. Add the cream cheese and using a spatula, fold the mixture together. Do not continue to use the electric hand whisk as this could over whip the cream and make it grainy.

Sieve in your icing sugar a few table spoons at a time, tasting as you add the sugar so as to sweeten the mix to your liking.

When completely mixed, spoon the mixture into the moulds on top of the biscuit bases. Set back in the fridge to chill and set. 

Make up your jelly using only half the amount of water stated on the packet instructions. When cool but not at all set, spoon about 2-3 tablespoons of jelly on to the top of each cheesecake then place back in the fridge to set.

Serve up after a heavy meal as a tingly pallet cleanser or as the finishing touch to a fishy dinner.


Crab in a lemon and herb butter cannelloni

May 18, 2012

Fresh, sweet crab encased in a herby, lemon butter crust,best when smeared
on a warm white crusty roll
I've only recently been reintroduced to crab after being put off it as a child, having been given a spoon of brown sludgy stuff peppered with bits of broken shell. After the tasting for our wedding menu, I was delightfully enlightened with a dish of beautifully soft white crab meat. This is my take on a posh potting of crab, encased in a herby seasoned butter, ready to be sliced and squashed into fluffy, warm bread.


Make enough for 4 starter servings.

120g white crab meat
1 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp dill
salt and pepper
100g salted butter
1 lemon
1 tsp tarragon

First make your butter cannelloni sheet by warming the butter in a microwave for 20 seconds just to soften it but not melt it. Give it a light whip, nothing like you would do for cake icing, but enough to make it movable and smooth. Grate in all the zest from the lemon then cut in half and squeeze in the juice, sprinkle over 1 tsp of the dill and all of the tarragon.

Now on a piece of greaseproof paper spread out your butter so that it is about half a centimetre thick. Try to make it as even as you can, you want to have a large rectangle that you can eventually roll into a sausage.

Set the butter sheet in the fridge to harden, now to mix up your crab filling. Place the crab meat into a bowl and break any large chunks into small strands. Pop in your mayonnaise, the rest of the dill and a little salt and pepper, mix well and taste before adjusting the seasoning.

Pop the crab, covered, in the fridge until the butter is firm. To make you finished cannelloni, place your butter sheet on a flat surface then pile a sausage of crab mix into the centre and along the length of the sheet, as if you were making a sausage roll.

Now roll up your cannelloni, when you have a good but not entirely perfect shape, roll the greaseproof paper in tin foil. This will make the sausage more rigid and conduct the heat from your palms through to the butter to melt it into a smooth tube shape. Roll the foil tube on a flat surface until you are happy with the shape, though not more than for a few minutes or the butter will melt completely and you will never achieve a perfect sausage!

Pop the foil sausage into the fridge for at least half an hour for it to completely set, then slice with a warm, sharp knife and serve alongside a warm, crusty bread roll as a brilliant starter or light lunch.


Green olive tapenade

May 17, 2012

Sharp and slightly sour, this tapenade goes beautifully with rustic bread
alongside hummus and other dips

Olives are a great snack, their firm flesh often marinated in herby oils or stuffed with garlic or sun dried tomatoes. By whizzing up a tapenade you can create a wonderful dip to adorn crusty bread that has the same wonderfully summer flavour or olives with the dippy consistency of hummus.


100g of herby marinated olives, marinate your own by popping fresh or unflavoured olives into a sterilised jar of good quality olive oil along with your favourite herbs. Oregano, thyme and basil work really well.
1tsp chopped garlic
1tsp anchovy paste
1/2 lemon's worth of juice
A little olive oil, use the oil from our marinated olives
Salt and pepper

If your olives are pitted then most of your work is done! If they aren't, however, you will have to take the stones out before making the tapenade. I find the easiest way to do this is to squash the olives to push the stone through the flesh. As you will be whizzing them into a chunky paste the state of them after de-stoning doesn't matter as much as if you were serving them whole in a salad for example.

When you have your olives de-stones, tumble them into a food processor with its chopping blade attached. Squeeze in the anchovy paste and throw in the garlic.

Give the olives a blast in the blitzer until they are well chopped, they will probably be a bit 'bitty' and not very paste like. To make your tapenade slug in a good lug of oil and the lemon juice then pulse again until you have a lovely spreading consistency.

Season with salt and pepper then serve up with crusty bread and an assortment of anti pasti.


Elderflower sponge with a white tea and gooseberry jam filling

May 16, 2012

Soft, sweet sponge filled with a shape, fragrant jam and topped
with elderflower sugar crystals
This light, sweet sponge is beautiful on a summer’s day with a cup of tea or even as at a gown up celebration! Inspired by my lovely friend Harrie this cake served as a delightfully grown up birthday cake whilst steeped in the flavours that remind us so much of elderflower champagne nights out and tea fuelled lazy mornings in sunny Falmouth.
For the sponge-

230g caster sugar
230g baking margarine
230g self raising flour
4 eggs
a good drizzle of elderflower cordial
4-5 tbsp granulated sugar
For the jam:
4 white tea bags
300g gooseberries, fresh if you can get them but tinned or frozen are fine, just rinse them of their syrup or defrost them completely before you use them
200g jam sugar
Turn on the oven and set it to 180c.
To make the sponge I cream together the margarine and the sugar with an electric hand whisk in a large bowl so I have plenty of space to move the mixture around. Whisk the margarine and the sugar until it has become considerably paler than the original shade of the marg; keep a tsp of marg aside to check if you wish! This lightness of colour shows that the mixture has been aerated and will be fluffy and light.
Find another largish bowl and wash and dry it thoroughly to make sure there is no trace of any grease in it at all, they will get greasy just being in a cupboard in the kitchen. You want to crack your eggs over your beautifully clean bowl, holding back the yolks in lightly clasped fingers, a bit like one of those grabby cranes at a fair ground! Let all of the crystal egg white drain through your fingers, help it through by pulling at it with your other hand but make sure you do not crack the yolk. Drop the yolks into the bowl with the marg and sugar mixture as you break your eggs.
Now whisk your egg yolks into your marg and sugar mixture, adding in a sifting of flour every few minutes, as soon as your last sifting is no longer visible add a bit more. The mixture will probably feel very thick and heavy at this point but do not fret that will soon change.
Wash the whisk beaters thoroughly and dry them making sure they are completely grease free. This pedantic grease eradication is so that when you whisk your egg whites they blossom into fluffy white peaks... grease is the enemy of clouds of egg white, they will remain stubbornly flaccid and sloppy should any grease be lurking in the bowl or on the beaters.
Using the beautifully clean electric hand whisk, whip the egg whites into a bubbly frenzy until they resemble a large and pearly 99 ice cream in your bowl. Now, take a large spoonful of your stiffened egg white and gently pour it into your marg, sugar, yolk and flour batter, using a spatula fold the white foam into the batter until it has disappeared, repeat until all of the egg white is gone. Some recipes say to use a metal spoon as its sharp edge cuts through the batter without knocking any of the air out, I use a silicone spatula as I find it eases all of the mixture away from the sides of the bowl and make sure its thoroughly mixed.
Line two round tins, about 8-10inchs across, with greaseproof or baking paper. Divide your batter equally between the two tins and place in the oven to bake for about 25-30mins.
The cakes should be lightly coloured on top, a golden brown, and slightly firm to the touch, bouncing back when a finger is pressed lightly against their surface.
Whilst the sponges are still warm drizzle over about 2-3 tablespoons of elderflower cordial onto each cake, the sponge will soak up the cordial as they cool. Decide which cake is to be the top layer, sprinkle over 2-3 tablespoons of granulated sugar onto the top of the cake, drizzle over more cordial then finish with the rest of the sugar. The sugar will appear to have dissolved in the cordial but as the cake cools and the cordial is absorbed, the surface will dry leaving you will an elderflower crystal crust.
To make your jam, first brew the tea bags 300ml of boiling water for about 5 mins until you have a dark golden, crystal clear liquid. Pour this liquid into a large, deep frying pan and tumble over the berries. Bring the pan up to the boil then shake over your jam sugar, reduce the heat under the pan and leave to simmer for about 20 mins.
When the liquid in the plan has become to thicken, use a fork to squash but not mash the berries, this will release their crunchy seeds and give a great texture to the finished jam.
To check the jam is done, plop a little drop on to a cold plate that’s been in the fridge for 5 mins. If the jam becomes a firm jelly then it is finished, if it runs quickly off the plate when tipped then reduce it further.
When both your jam and your sponges are cooled, glue your pale golden sponges together with a thick layer of the jam then serve up alongside a pot of tea or, the inspiration behind the cake, elderflower champagne.


Smoked mackerel pate with walnut bread and a watercress and beetroot salad

May 15, 2012

Lemony pate smeared onto crispy toasted walnut bread with a
fresh, peppery watercress and sweet beetroot salad

With one or two of these May days shining a little sun down through the clouds, I find myself fancying something a little lighter for dinner. This lemony pate atop my homemade walnut bread is filling enough for a summer supper whilst being so fresh and light that it makes me believe sunnier days are really on their way!


Serves 4

For the pate:

200g smoked mackerel fillets, with all meat and fish I use I like to spend a little extra to get a better flavour and ensure a good quality product, with better quality mackerel fillets you are less likely to end up chewing on little bones when tucking into your finished pate
100g cream cheese
1 lemon
salt and pepper
1 tsp dill
1 tsp tarragon
75-100g butter

For the salad:

a bag of washed watercress
3 roasted beetroots
olive oil
white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

To serve up with walnut bread use the recipe here

Peel off the skin from the mackerel fillets and place them into a food processor then dollop in your cream cheese on top.
Using a micro plane grater or zester scrape the zest from the lemon skin and sprinkle into the processor. Now roll your uncut, shaved lemon around on a hard, flat surface to release all the juices then slice in half and squeeze out the juice and pick out the flesh (without pips) and sprinkle on top.

Shake over your dill and tarragon then blend until your pate is mostly smooth but with a few visible chunks of mackerel to give the finished pate a good texture.
Taste the pate and season with salt and pepper, now spoon your pate into 4 ramekins and using the back of a tablespoon create a smooth even surface. Place your ramekins into the fridge, they will set a little but this is mainly to chill them to that the butter layer will cool faster when you pour it over the top.

Pop a small saucepan onto a low heat, cut up the butter and place into the saucepan, you want the butter melted but not browned. Pour a layer of butter about 1-1 1/2cm thick on to each ramekin then sprinkle with dill. This may seem like a lot of butter but I do not serve my pate with additional butter, so that butter layer will be the only butter on the bread, it's like and all in one pot!

Place the buttered ramekins in the fridge on a level surface for the butter to cool and set.

To make your salad you want to first slice your beetroot into strands, I find this is small enough to mix into the watercress leaves well but large enough to give a good bite.

Now to whip up your dressing, you can do this in a mug, bowl or jam jar (a jam jar makes mixing it up really easy!). Slug in your oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper and give it a good whisk or shake if you are using a jam jar.

Toss together the watercress leaves, the sliced beetroot and the salad dressing and pile on a plate, pop your ramekin of pate with it's set butter top next to it with a stack of toasted walnut bread slices.

Enjoy with a crisp glass of white wine whilst dreaming of sunnier days.


Eggs benedict

May 13, 2012

A perfect Sunday morning brunch
Sunday mornings are meant for lie ins! Whether you've had a late night on Saturday or like to spend your Sunday morning lounge in a tangle of duvet and Sunday morning papers, eggs benedict is a hands down winner!


Makes enough hollandaise sauce for 4 generous portions

Hollandaise sauce:

3 egg yolks
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
juice of half a lemon 
100g butter
salt and pepper
(although it technically makes it into bearnaise sauce I sometimes like to add a little sprinkle of tarragon!)

1 English muffin per person (toasted and buttered)
1 egg per person
3 rashers of good quality bacon per person

Turn your grill on high to heat and lay your bacon over a grill rack, keep and eye on it whilst your making your hollandaise. You want your bacon to be crispy with sizzling browned edges.

To make your hollandaise sauce, use an electric hand whisk and beat your egg yolks until they are foamy and light. Measure in your white wine vinegar, lemon juice (and your tarragon if you are breaking hollandaise rules!) and whisk again until well combined.

Chop your butter into a small cubes and place in a saucepan on a low heat until completely melted but not browned.

With the whisk running, keeping the yolks moving vigorously in the bowl, trickle in the melted butter into the eggs and continue to whisk until you have a thick, creamy sauce.

Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Fill a large deep frying pan with water and bring up to a simmer, add a dash of white wine vinegar to the water. Everyone has their own little ways of poaching eggs, the swirling water, the little silicon cups, I say do what works for you, but this is how I do it.

I make sure my water is as hot as it can be with out moving with bubbles or ripples. I then crack my egg into a mug or cup and slowly tip it into the water so that part of the white is dangling in the water before the yolk plops in. Allow the bit of white resting in the water to become opaque and set before dropping the yolk on top, I find that this give a shape to the finished poached egg.

Pop your muffins under the grill until lightly browned, then build your benedict!

Stack the buttered, toasted muffins on a plate, then lay over your glistening crispy bacon. Gently place your poaches egg atop the stack before drizzling a generous amount of your buttery, rich hollandaise sauce over the top... Dig in and enjoy your Sunday.


Walnut bread

May 11, 2012

Oaty, wholemeal bread dotted with chewy walnuts makes for a wonderful bread
perfect for smothering with pate or toasted with cheese

When serving up a fishy pate or a baked cheese I like to offer a really nice bread to scoop up the flavoursome goodness. Crusty white bread is gorgeous and has it's place (for me it's stuffed with ham and salad!) but to compliment and support a mackerel pate or a baked camembert you cannot beat this walnut loaf.


500g wholemeal bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 packet/7g of fast action dried yeast
a glug of olive oil
250-300ml of warm water
100g walnut halves

Turn on the oven to its lowest setting, mine is 50c, and pop a deep baking tray full of warm water in the bottom of the oven. This will create a warm damp 'rising cupboard' to prove your bread later.. or if you're lucky enough to have an airing cupboard just use that.

On a large, flat surface pour out your flour, sprinkle on your salt, sugar and yeast the mix in until evenly spread through the flour. Make a pile from your flour then dig a well in the middle of it, pour about a third of the water and all of the oil into the middle of the well, using a fork or your fingers begin to mix some of the flour from the inside of the 'wall' into the liquid. It will begin as a sticky mess but as you gradually mix in more of the flour it will become more like a thick paste. As the paste becomes stiffer, add the water bit by bit, continue mixing and adding water until all the water is absorbed.
Now you should have a dough, albeit a very sticky dough! Cover your hands with flour and ensure the surface is lightly dusted at all times or its all going to get a bit messy! Knead the dough by pushing it out across the surface then scooping it back and folding it over on itself. As first you will think, oh my god my kitchen table is ruined what is this mental woman talking about, but as you continue to do this the gluten in the flour will develop and the dough will become stretchier, more elastic and importantly, less sticky!
With the walnuts, you want to crush some into a dry rice like consistency, break some in half and leave some whole. This will give you a lovely nutty flavour as well as a good variety of walnutty texture.
Knead the dough for a good 10-15mins until it is beautifully soft and elastic. Form it into the shape you would like on a well oiled tray, allowing room for expansion. Try and choose a try with really high sides, I'll explain later.

Wet a clean tea towel and drape it loosely over the tin, here is where your high sides come in handy, it suspends the towel above the dough so when it expands it doesn't get stuck to the cloth.
Pop this into your make shift 'rising cabinet' or airing cupboard, check back after an hour, the dough should have doubled in size. If it's still looking a little small give it another half an hour.

Once the dough has risen bake it at 180c for 20-30 mins until it is golden brown and sound hollow when you tap it on its bottom.

When the bread it cooked, turn the oven off, turn the bread over in the tin and leave it all to cool down. This will ensure your bread has a nice crispy crust all the way down.. and not a soggy bottom.
Serve up, thickly sliced alongside, pate, baked cheese or with a steamy bowl of thick soup.


Porcini, stilton and port steak sauce

May 09, 2012

Serve with a perfectly cooked steak, oven baked potato
and steamed greens for a hearty dinner
A simple meal of steak and a baked potato can be taken to new levels with your choice of condiment. I'm a big fan of sauces, gravies and salsas, I think they can excite and change a meal with the use of a few special ingredients. This steak sauce takes three luxurious ingredients and blends them into a simple divine sauce to smother your juicy steak in.

1/2 red onion
40g dried porcini mushrooms
50g stilton
200ml double cream
a good splash of port, about 1 shot/25ml
salt and pepper

Boil the kettle and shake the dried porcini mushrooms into a measuring jug. Top the dried mushrooms with half a pint of just boiled water and leave them to plump up and become re hydrated whilst seeping their meaty mushroomy flavour into the water. Leave the mushrooms to 'wake up' for about 10-15 mins, you will know that they are done when they feel soft and not at all hard to the touch.
Scoop out the porcini mushrooms and squeeze the excess water back into the jug. Now finely dice the mushrooms with a sharp knife and set aside to add to your sauce do not throw away the mushroom stock.
Finely dice your onion and add it to a frying pan with a little oil on a medium heat fry the onion until it is golden. Throw in the finely chopped porcini mushrooms and fry them until any water that has bubbled out of them has fried away. Turn the pan up to a high heat then splash in your port, it should sizzle and reduce quickly, now pour in about half of your porcini mushroom stock and turn the heat down under the pan, allow this to simmer for about 10 mins until the stock has reduced by half.

Pour in the cream and crumble over the stilton, stir until the sauce is a smooth, uniform colour and the cheese has melted into the sauce leaving no lumps. Let the sauce simmer for about 5 mins until the sauce has reduced and is thick and creamy, like the consistency of pancake batter.

Season with salt and pepper and use the porcini stock to mellow the flavour or loosen the sauces to your liking.

Serve hot, poured over a juicy steak or roasted chicken.


Triple layer chocolate sponge with chocolate ganache butter cream icing

May 08, 2012

truly indulgent and deliciously naughty!
This is not one for those 'watching what they eat'.. this is one for those that cannot get enough cake!
The moist sponge is kept sticky and unctuous with syrup whilst the ganache butter cream is sweet and smooth and oh so chocolaty, this is the chocolate cake to end all chocolate cakes.


For the sponge:

230g margarine
230g caster sugar
170g self raising flour
6og cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
2 tbs golden syrup
2 tbsp vegetable/sunflower oil, not olive as it is flavoured

For the ganache butter cream:

200ml double cream
100g 70% cocoa solid chocolate
50g slated butter
8-10 tbsp icing sugar

Turn the oven on to 180c and find three round, 8inch cake tins that are about and inch deep.

In a large mixing bowl with an electric hand whisk, cream together the margarine and the caster sugar until the mixture is pale and light. Drizzle over the golden syrup and oil then beat into the butter mixture until well combined. Break the eggs into a separate bowl or mug and give them a light whisk with a fork. Weigh the flour, cocoa and baking powder and combine in a separate bowl or on a plate. Pour in about a third of the beaten egg then sift over a matching third of the brown powder mix to cover the egg. Whisk this together until combined, continue to add the egg with a dusting of flour/cocoa until it has all been added and mixed together.

Line the cake tins with greaseproof or baking paper then divide the mixture equally between the tins. It is important to use paper in the tins as the syrup and oil in the cakes will make them very moist and sticky, trying to remove them from a greased pan runs the risk of loosing half of your cake in the process.

Bake your cakes in the oven for about 15-20 mins until they are firm to the touch and bounce bake when pressed. Remove them from the oven and press out on to a wire rack to cool, the cakes must be completely cool before you ice them or the frosting will melt and slip off of the finished cake.

To make the ganache butter cream, pour your double cream into a saucepan and set on a low-medium heat on the hob. While the cream heats roughly chop your chocolate into pieces about 1-2cm square, this will help it to melt faster. When the cream begins to bubble slightly, turn the heat right down and add your chocolate, stir the mixture, it will become darker and darker brown as the chocolate melts into the cream. When the mixture has remained the same shade of dark brown and seems not to be deepening any further, take the pan off the heat and rest the sauce pan in a larger pan of cold water. Be sure not to allow any of the water to drip or spill into the chocolate cream. Leave the pan in the cold water to cool whilst you make the butter cream. Following the recipe here make a batch of butter cream icing.

When the chocolate ganache has cooled to room temperature, pour it slowly into he butter cream whilst whisky. Pour all off the ganache into the butter cream and whisk until it is smooth and creamy.

Once the cakes are completely cool sandwich them together with a generous dollop of ganache butter cream leaving enough to coat the top of the cake as well. if the icing is too sloppy to use as a glue then pop it in the fridge to set for a about half an hour. To make it easier to slice, I place the finished cake into the fridge for about an hour to set the icing, when it is then removed it's a lot easier to cut and you don't loose any precious chocolate!


Salami, mushroom and artichoke pizza with piccolo cherry tomato sauce

May 06, 2012

Crisp and golden crust with melting mozzarella coating salty salami and meat artichoke

Quicker than a take away, you can make your very own personal pizzas ready for a evening in front of a movie or as part of your evening's entertainment with friends.


You need to make the bread dough first for your pizza bases, the recipe is here

Add an extra glug of olive oil in place of a table spoon of water, this will help your finished pizza base to really brown nicely.

For the sauce:

2 handfuls of piccolo tomatoes, you can use any tomatoes really but I find these tiny little ruby red gems have such a sweet flavour, they make an amazing pizza sauce.
5-6 leaves of fresh basil
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
dash of balsamic vinegar
half a mug of water

For the topping-

anything you fancy!

I used salami slices, sliced chestnut mushrooms and artichoke hearts that had been preserved in herby olive oil, topped with mozzarella. I then sprinkled over some rocket leaves and mixed herbs to serve.

To make your pizza bases follow the bread recipe but when it comes to form it into a shape, roll it out into a pizza round. How many pizzas you get out of the dough will entirely depend on how big your pizza's are, though you will happily feed 4 people with the dough recipe above.

Cover your pizza bases with damp tea towels and leave somewhere warm until they have puffed and doubled in size.

Turn the oven on to 200c ready for your pizzas once they are dressed.

To make the sauce, drizzle a little oil into a frying pan and pop in your garlic, slowly heat the oil with the garlic in it from cold, this will gently flavour the pan and not burn the garlic which which make it bitter.

As the oil heats roughly chop your tomatoes, if you are using piccolo tomatoes you will only need to chop them in half. When the oil is hot and the garlic has begun to gently sizzle, throw in your tomatoes and fry on a high heat for 5 mins, then throw in your balsamic vinegar. The vinegar should sizzle and reduce quickly into a sticky syrup, toss in the basil and pour over the water, stir everything together then turn the heat to medium and allow to simmer away.

After 10 minutes of simmering use a fork to smush the tomatoes into a rough paste, you now want to gentle cook away all of the liquid in the pan until you have a thick paste that looks like tomato puree.. but it will taste a lot better. You want the sauce to be quite thick as any excess water in it will make your finished pizza base a bit soggy.

To make your pizza, smother the base in with enough sauce to coat the base but not so thick that you cannot see the colour of the dough through it. Evenly spread your toppings over the sauce then tear your mozzarella, you are using fresh, or sprinkle your choice of cheese over the top. Try to make sure every piece of topping is covered by a little cheese so that it all sticks together well.

Bake the pizzas in the oven for about 10-15 mins, depending on their size. You want the crust to be golden a crisp and for the cheese to be melted, golden and bubbling.

Serve up with a sprinkle of fresh salad leaves.


My huevos rancheros

May 05, 2012

My Cinco de Mayo breakfast
In honour of the Mexican celebration of freedom and independence, Cinco de Mayo, this May 5th I am cooking up a gorgeous breakfast!
Not only tinged with Mexican history it is a delightful and refreshing change to a greasy fry up and can sooth a sore head as well, if not better than, any bacon sarnie.


Per person-

1/2 avocado
6-8 cherry tomatoes, I used piccolo
1/2 red onion
1/4-1/2 chipped red chili, depending on how hot you like it
lug of olive oil
dash balsamic vinegar
4-6 rashers of streaky bacon
1 flour tortilla wrap
1 egg
salt and pepper

Make your salsa first by finely dicing the onion and the tomatoes and tipping them into a bowl along with any tomato juices that have escaped as you've chopped them. Test the heat of your chili by tentatively nibbling the tip of the chili and snipping off a little with your teeth. Let it rest on your tongue for a few second them chew, this way if it is very very hot you have only had a little and not chomped down the whole thing.. be warned it sometimes takes you by surprise!

Finely slice your chili and add as much as you like to your tomatoes and onion, drizzle over the oil until you can see it creeping up through the ravines in the tomato mixture then dash in about a tablespoon of balsamic, salt and pepper and mix. Give the salsa a taste to adjust the seasoning, I like to leave mine in the fridge for a few hours to mingle together but it is also delicious straight away.

Spread out your streaky bacon on a grill pan and sprinkle your flour tortilla with a little water. Now wrap the tortilla in foil then tuck it under the grill pan which you need to slide under a hot grill for the bacon to sizzle and crisp.

Whilst the bacon sizzles, scoop out the soft, buttery flesh of your avocado and slice into thick chunks about 1cm thick. If you are making more than one dish and it may take you some time to get all the component parts together then squeeze a little lime over the avocado to keep them nice and green.

You can top the pile of yummyness with a poached or fried egg, your choice, but try and make sure that which ever you choose you keep the yolk runny so that when you cut into it the golden cream run out through the bacon, salsa and avocado and is caught by the toasted tortilla.

Now build your breakfast, start by lining the plate with a tortilla then pile on the avocado then your crisp bacon, topped off with a generous few spoonfuls of salsa, rest your egg of choice in top and dig in to my version of this Mexican classic.


Chai ice cream with pistachio and pomegranate

May 04, 2012

Sweetly, spiced ice cream topped with crunchy
pistachios and sweet pomegranate
I came up with this idea after my mum started drinking chai. Whenever I am at home I can smell this beautiful aroma of festive spicy sweetness and will forever associate that beautiful, warming smell with my mum. I'm mixing up the comforting flavour of chai with my sweet tooth to create an ice cream that not only my mum and I can enjoy... everyone can. This simple recipe makes a truly divine and delicious ice cream Richly spiced with the exotic flavours of chai tea and smooth with double cream, the chopped nuts and sprinkled pomegranate seeds give a textural crunch and pop of sweetness making this dessert a real crowd pleaser.


It would probably be best to point out that I used an ice cream machine for this. I have made ice cream without one before but the time and effort involved never, in my experience, matches up to the brilliant result of the churning machine!

Makes 4 dinner party portions or 2 sitting in front of the TV portions...

250ml whole milk
250ml cream
70g caster sugar
2 chai tea bags
50g pistachios
1 pomegranate

24 hours before you want to make your ice cream you will have to put your churning bowl in the freezer.

Pour the milk into a saucepan and dunk in the chai tea bags, Shake in the caster sugar and swirl the pan until the mixture is smooth and the sugar is not gritty in the bottom of the pan. 
Bring the milk to a simmer and squish the bag so that the milk begins to colour a deep creamy taupe colour.

Once the milk begins to fizz a little but before it boils, turn the heat off and take the pan off of the heat. Pour the milk and the bags into to a jug or bowl, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge to cool completely.

When the mixture is completely cold, remove and squeeze the tea bags to get all of the infused milk out of them, make sure to mix in any strongly flavoured milk that is squished out of the bags. Pour in the double cream and mix well.

Now remove your ice cream bowl form the freezer, be sure only to hold it on the outside, the inside and possible the handle, as in my case, will be so cold that warm skin will stick to the surface. If you find your hands have stuck to the bowl, do not panic and try to pull them away, it will hurt and you'll end up with skin in your ice cream which no one likes. Still holding the bowl, calm move over to the sink and run the bowl where your skin is stuck under slightly warm water, not hot or it will hurt.

If you do not have taps that can be turned on using a forearm and you are worried about the possibility of sticking yourself to your ice cream machine then run a little warm water in the bowl before you retrieve it from the freezer.

Following the instructions for your machin

e, start it churning then pour the cream mixture into the bowl and leave it to churn. My instructions said to churn for 20-30 min to give me a soft scoop consistency. I then scoop out my ice cream into a tupperware bowl and pop back in the freezer to give me a firmer finished ice cream, this way you get a firmer scoop that sits nicely in the bowl and doesn't melt before you get to the table.

Chop your pistachios into a rough mixture of powder and nuts that have been only chipped in half, sprinkle these over ice cream balls and tap over pomegranate seeds to create a very pretty and tasty dessert.


Welsh pasty

May 03, 2012

Succulent meat and potatoes all tucked up inside shiny,
crisp shortcrust pasty 

Now that the Cornish pasty's destination of origin is protected it is physically impossible for me to make a Cornish pasty in my kitchen.. in Swansea. So this is my tribute to the pasty filled with the best bits of my local Welsh produce, this is my Welsh pasty!

Makes 5 pasties:

For the filling:

300g Welsh salt marsh lamb, I used lamb leg steaks
1 leek
1 sml jar/155g cockles, if you can fresh that's best but pickled are fine after being soaked
2 medium potatoes
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp mint
lug of oil

For the pastry:

250g plain flour
55g lard
55g butter
2-6 tbsp cold water
1 egg for glazing and gluing

Make your pastry first so that it has time to chill in the fridge for about a quarter of an hour whilst you prepare the filling for the pasty.

Also if you are using pickled cockles put them in a sieve inside a bowl and fill the bowl with water, allow them to soak until you need them a little later on.

Crumble together the lard, butter and flour until it has the consistency of damp sand, drop in a tablespoon of water and use a fork to mix the crumbs together, keep dropping in tablespoons of water until the crumbs form together into a smooth dough.
Only work the pastry as much as you need to bring it together into a dough, over kneading it will make the finished pastry chewy and dull when you want it to be crumbly and crisp.

Wrap the pasty in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for about a quarter of an hour, while the party chills you can make up the filling.

Chop up the lamb into small bite sized pieces, make sure to remove any very hard fat of sinew, any soft fat can be left on as it will melt down and soften the rest of the pasty filling. Pop the chopped lamb into a large mixing bowl, tumble the peeled and chopped potatoes in with the lamb and the finely sliced leeks.

If you are using fresh cockles pop them in now, if you are using picked on them lift the sieve out of the water and using a piece of paper kitchen towel press the water out of the cockles. Pop these into a separate small bowl and squeeze in the anchovy paste, mix this together until they are evenly coated, then pop them into the bowl with the lamb.

Season the mixture with the salt, pepper, mint and rosemary then lug over a little oil and mix well, I use my hands so that i can make sure that everything is coated.

Turn on the oven to 200c.

Now removed your pastry from the fridge and roll out until it's about 1/2 cm thick, use a side plate to cut around to make 5 circles. Pile the mixture evenly across the five pastry circles into sausage shapes through the centre of the circles with a good inch of pastry at each end of the sausage showing.

Brush around the edges of the circle with beaten egg and lift the edge of the pastry up to the centre, enclosing the filling. Crimp the edge together with your fingers, not only does this look pretty it create a better seal and a crisper edge. Brush the pasty with beaten egg all over and place in the oven, leave them to crisp and colour for 15 mins then turn down the oven to 180c and bake for another 50 mins.

Serve up as a meal with chips and salad or enjoy on their own eaten with your fingers hot from the oven!