Wednesday, 19 December 2012

birthday cake

So I recently had my birthday which isn't something I normally make much of a fuss about but it is a great reason to indulge in awesome food and drink. This year it was fairly low key but did involve celebrating with loved ones by drinking wine over-looking London, enjoying San Sebastian style pinchos in Soho and an awesome brunch of Turkish eggs at Kopapa in Seven Dials, Covent Garden. We also managed to fit in some tasty snacks down on the SouthBank at the yummy food market there and tea and tarts at the cafe at the Liberty department store. It was a proper foodies birthday. I felt spoilt and utterly indulged. To top the weekend off we decided to make my birthday cake rather than buying one. Nothing beats a special cake, homemade with love. The recipe is based on the same yummy chocolate fudge cake recipe I have used for some of my cupcakes (I doubled the quantities) but it was made even more special by filling the centre with rum cream and covered in a salted caramel buttercream frosting and some crumbled malteasers (whoppers). This cake was just grown up enough and truly rocked. Sorry about the blurry pictures, I blame the cocktails!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

chocolate malt cookies

It's been a long time since I made cookies, mostly because I don't have any will power and would eat the whole batch within a day. But it's my birthday coming up and I figure I'm allowed a treat every now and again. These cookies absolutely rock and I will definitely be making them again soon. The chocolate flavour here is not overwhelming and the little nuggets of malteasers/whoppers bring a great extra layer of loveliness. I know you will love this recipe if you give it a go.

Ingredients (based on a recipe from hummingbird on high.)
1 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Ovaltine or other malted milk powder with some cocoa
115g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cup malteasers/whoppers, very roughly chopped (I used a 135g sharing pouch of malteasers)

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. Cream together the butter and sugars for a few minutes, until the colour has lightened and like a milky coffee. (about 3 minutes with an electric whisk should do it).
  3. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat for 30 seconds or so more so that everything is combined. 
  4. Now add the flour, ovaltine, salt and baking powder. Beat everything together well for a few seconds. There's no need to beat it for very long.
  5. Stir through your roughly chopped malteasers or whoppers with a spoon or spatula. then dollop tablespoons of the mixture on to the baking sheets. Make sure you leave plenty of space between each cookie as these spread out a lot. 
  6. Bake for 8 minutes if you want them soft and gooey and more brownie like or for 10 minutes if you want them to have more crunch. I tried both ways and they're equally awesome.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the tray before moving them. They will be very soft and hot so give them at least 15 minutes or half an hour before you try to move them.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

butter bean & potato mash

This is a great side dish and with the addition of the pureed butter beans you get a slightly more healthy version of regular mashed potatoes. I most recently made this to go with my blue cheese meatloaf.

400g can of butter beans, drained
approx 800g potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1 clove of garlic (optional)
50g butter
splash of milk

  1. Put your potatoes on to boil until soft and while they are cooking puree together the butter beans and clove of garlic in a food processor until smooth. Add a splash of water to help the process along if needed.
  2. Once the potatoes are soft, drain then mash as usual using the butter and milk and give them a bit of a beating with a wooden spoon to help remove any lumps. 
  3. Put the mashed potatoes over a gentle heat then stir in the pureed butter beans and garlic stirring to combine. Serve once the mixture is heated through. 

slow cooker red cabbage

I made this to go with my blue cheese meatloaf but it goes well with many other dishes too. Red cabbage and apple is also a staple on my family's Christmas table too. I made this in a slow cooker but it could just as easily be made on the hob or in the oven, remember to keep it covered, cook on a low heat for a long time and check back every so often to make sure things are going ok.

1 small red cabbage, cored and finely sliced
2 eating apples, cored and cut into bite sized chunks
1 onion finely sliced
300ml stock (I used beef stock but use veg or chicken if you prefer)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp honey
1 star anise
1 tbsp butter

Add everything to your slow cooker or saucepan then cover and cook for around 2-4 hours. I cooked mine on high in the slow cooker for 4 hours. I added the butter and honey to the hot stock, stirred then poured over the cabbage, apple and onion in the slow cooker.

blue cheese meatloaf

This is a great comfort food recipe, easy to put together and perfect for a family weekend dinner. The resulting meatloaf has a subtle blue cheese flavour and is perfectly moist. The polenta helps to firm up the texture of the loaf so that excess moisture is soaked up and makes for easier slicing. If you don't have any you can always experiment with oatmeal or breadbrumbs. If you have any left overs you could always make yourself a meatloaf sandwich using the kaiser rolls.

700g lean mince (I used 50/50 pork and beef)
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 sticks of celery, finely diced
100g blue cheese
1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly ground if you like
1 tsp dried rosemary
freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
70g cornmeal/polenta
  1. Preheat oven to 150C (fan oven). 
  2. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together until thoroughly combined but take care not to over mix otherwise you'll end up with a tough meatloaf. Place the mixture in a 1lb loaf tin, cover loosely with foil then bake in the oven for around 1 hour 30 minutes. About 30 minutes before the end of the time, remove the foil lid, carefully drain off the excess fat and return to the oven to colour up.
  3. Once the meat loaf is cooked remove from the oven, turn out on to a serving plate and slice up ready to serve. I served mine without any additional sauce or gravy but with butter bean and potato mash and slow cooker red cabbage as sides. Feel free to add a sauce if you like though. 

kaiser rolls

These are quite possibly my favourite bread rolls ever, I have always loved the knotted shape since I first saw them in Germany. They are the sort of bread roll that I always wish I could find more easily in the shops here but they seem to be everywhere in mainland Europe. They have a good crust and don't just fall apart, a bit of a bite but still very light. They're perfect with anything and make especially good burger buns too. This is not a truly authentic recipe but it works well.

Ingredients (for 8-12 rolls depending on size)
3 cups of strong white bread flour
1 cup of wholemeal bread flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup warm water (approx)
1 beaten egg
egg wash and seeds for decoration if wanted. 
  1. Place all the dry ingredients and the butter into a large bowl, make a well in the centre pour in the egg and the water and mix together with your hands until a rough dough is formed. You may need to add extra water to bring it all together, do this a tablespoon at a time to avoid making the dough too sticky.
  2. Turn dough out on to the work surface and knead for around 10 minutes or until you have a smooth and silky dough. Place in a greased bowl, cover with cling film and a tea towel then leave in a warm place to double in size. This will take around 1 to 2 hours. 
  3. Once the dough has risen, knock it back then break off small nuggets that are about golf ball sized and roll between your hands until you have a long rope. Make a loose single knot in the rope then tuck the ends into the central hole so that they are concealed. Place each knotted roll on to a floured baking sheet. When you have formed all the rolls, cover the baking sheet and leave to rise again for around 30 minutes to an hour. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 230C. Place a roasting pan with water in the bottom of the oven to create steam while the rolls cook. 
  5. If you want to, brush the rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds. Poppy or sesame seeds are particularly good. 
  6. Bake in the oven for around 20-25 minutes.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

easy rye bread with caraway seed

Rye bread with caraway seeds is a flavor straight from my childhood and could not be any more Polish. Make this bread into any shape you like. Typically it would be bloomer shaped or round, however I couldn’t resist go for a pretty plaited shape. Try this bread with sliced cheeses, ham, Polish sausage, herring or any fish. It also makes wonderful open sandwiches. 

Ingredients Makes 1 huge loaf or two large loaves.
1 cups milk
1 ½ cups water
2 tbsp butter
3 Tbsp sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
3 tsp active yeast
2 cups rye flour
2 cups wholemeal bread flour
2 ½ cups strong white bread flour
2 tbsp caraway seeds (optional)
1 beaten egg white for egg wash
  1. Put the butter, milk and water in a saucepan and heat over a gentle flame until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and set to one side until it is cool enough for you to bare putting a finger in it for a few seconds.
  2. Put all the remaining ingredients (yeast, flour, sugar, salt, caraways seeds) into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre then pour in the milk, water and butter mixture. Using your hands bring the mixture into a rough dough then turn out on to the work surface. Knead for 10 minutes until you have a smooth ball of dough. Place in a large bowl, cover with cling film and a tea towel then leave in a warm place to rise for around 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  3. Once the dough has risen, knock it back again and knead it briefly. Form into your chosen shape or place into your prepared tin. I made mine into a large 3 strand plait.  Cover again and leave to rise for around another hour or until roughly double in size.
  4. Preheat the oven 230C. Brush the bread with beaten egg white, sprinkle with additional caraway seeds if you wish then bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 170C and cook for a further 35-40 minutes or until the bread has a golden brown crust.
  5. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled either store in an airtight container or freeze for later use.
  6. This bread is particularly good buttered and served with soup. We had ours to accompany some tomato and rice soup. I'll post my recipe soon.

Monday, 26 November 2012

tortas de aceite

These crispy, sweet flat breads are incredibly moreish and ever so easy to fall in love with. Ever since I first tried them in Spain several years ago I get regular cravings for them. You can get them over here but they're so expensive that they're difficult to justify. However, I have recently found out how to make them for myself and I can't believe how simple they are. With a straight forward method and cheap ingredients there's no doubting that these tasty treats are going to be making a regular appearance in my house. If you can get your head around a simple bread dough you'll have no difficulty with these. The literal translation is 'oil cakes' but that doesn't sound as good as the Spanish original. My understanding of their history is that they are a traditional sweet from Seville in southern Spain but are now enjoyed all over the world. 

Ingredients These quantities yield around 22 biscuits
100ml of olive oil
large pieces of lemon zest from a whole lemon (or equivalent amount of orange/clementine/tangerine zest)
1 tbsp aniseed (I couldn't get hold of any so used fennel seeds - I reckon you could also use fresh or dried rosemary for a different but equally yummy flavour combo)
1 tbsp sesame seeds
360g plain flour
20g fresh yeast*
80ml warm water
20ml anise (I used ouzo but use what aniseed flavoured alcohol you have to hand or increase the quantity of water)
30g sugar
pinch of salt
Beaten egg white and granulated sugar for finishing.

*My yeast comes in 50g blocks. So I used the other 30g to make my cardamon bread.
  1. Put the oil in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the zest and geat until it sizzles and darkens in colour. Add the seeds, turn off the heat and leave to cool. You need to be able to handle it within the dough so leave to cool for at least 15 minutes. Don't rush it and end up burning yourself.
  2. Combine the yeast and the warm water until thoroughly mixed. Put the remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well the pour in the water and oil (once cooled).
  3. Mix together until you have a rough dough then turn out on to the counter. Flour the surface if needed then knead the dough until smooth and silky.
  4. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with cling film and a clean tea towel then leave for around an hour until it doubles in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 220C and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Once the dough had risen knock it back down then break off walnut/golf ball size pieces. Roll out each piece  on a lightly floured surface to around 2-3mm thick, rough circles (as thin as you can basically). 
  6. Place each rolled out circle on to the baking sheet, brush with the egg white then generously cover with sugar. Bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes (depending on the size of your oven and the number of baking sheets you have you will probably need to do this in batches). Keep a close eye on them. You want them to turn a rich brown colour and for some of the sugar on top to have caramelised. 
  7. Remove from the sheet as soon as they come out of the oven and leave to cool.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

prize winning swedish cardamon bread - two ways

MY VERSION These quantities will give you enough dough for two loaves. For variety I normally make one filled loaf and one plain loaf.

400ml milk
110g butter
30g of fresh yeast of 2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
110g caster sugar
750g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tsp ground cardamom (it’s best if you split then remove the black seeds inside green cardamom pods and grind them in a pestle and mortar)
1 egg, beaten

Filling: (Enough for one loaf)
100g soft butter
60g soft brown sugar
25g granulated or caster sugar
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamon

Optional extras: handful of nuts and/or raisins

1. In a large saucepan, gently heat the milk , butter and ground cardamom until just warm and all the butter has melted.
2. Remove from the heat and once it has cooled to luke warm add the egg and fresh or dried yeast and whisk thoroughly. (If you are using fast action yeast just heat the milk, butter and cardamom and add the yeast with the flour and other dry ingredients).
3. Place the flour, salt, sugar (and fast action yeast if using) into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in them milk, egg and butter mixture and combine everything together by hand or using a wooden spoon so that you get a rough dough.
4. At this stage you need to turn the dough out on to a floured surface and give it a good knead until it is smooth and silky. Place the dough in a floured bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and place in a warm place to double in size (about and hour). Go and enjoy a cup of tea, listen to the radio or read a good book.
5. Once the dough has risen, knock it back, remove from the bowl and divide the dough in two. Then follow either the instructions for a plain loaf or the pull apart version.

Pull-apart Cardamon Bread
1. Grease and flour a tin.
2. Take half the dough and place on to a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a rectangle shape of about 0.5cm thickness.
3. Mix together the butter, sugar and spices then spread over the dough, sprinkle over the raisins and nuts if using. Make sure that there is an even covering.
4. Now cut the rectangle in half lengthways and roll up each smaller rectangle into tight log shape with the filling on the inside.
5. Cut into slices about 2-3cm thick and place the pieces into the prepared tin with the cut, see the picture below for how I did it.
6. Cover over again then leave in a warm place for the final rise of about an hour.
7. Preheat the oven to 180C then bake in the oven for around 30 minutes. You will know the bread is finished when the top is very golden brown.
8. Allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes or so then loosen the bread with a knife and turn out on to a plate or board. Turn it right way up again using another plate to help.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C
2. Split the dough into three equal pieces and make each piece into a rope.
3. Plait/braid the ropes together and tuck the edges under.
4. Place on a lined baking sheet, brush generously with egg wash and sprinkle with slivered almonds or sugar crystals. Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes.
5. Once the loaf has cooled you can either serve it as it is or decorate with a simple glaze of icing sugar mixed with a couple of drops of water and a scattering of slivered almonds.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


Whilst stollen may be most usually associated with German Christmas feasting it has always been part of the festivities in my family. I get a little sad if there is no stollen around at Christmas. This year I'm attempting to make my own for the first time. How hard can it be?? My version is based on a few different ones in an attempt to find the flavour I remember from childhood. As usual I've gone to Dan Lepard for some inspiration from his book Short and Sweet as well as Helga's Christmas Stollen which can be found here. Essentially stollen is a bread dough enriched with milk, butter and/or eggs with dried fruit and marzipan and spices. You can vary the type and amount of dried fruit and spices to your preferences. Many recipes have no cardamon or cinnamon, much less spice or sometimes much more. This is not set in stone. There are also some lovely sounding versions around that contain glace or dried sour cherries. Use your imagination. Be creative and come up with a stollen that satisfies your taste buds.

My recipe is not at all difficult to make so please don't be put off by the quantity of ingredients or the number of steps included. However, you will need to have a day spare to make it. Once made it will keep for several weeks if stored properly.  Very festive and super delicious.

NOTE: I made 3 smaller stollen so that I could give them to my mum and sister but you could just as easily make two larger ones or one mega stollen! Just make sure you adjust the cooking times accordingly.

1kg strong bread flour
500ml milk
5 tsps fast action yeast
200g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
450g unsalted butter
grated peel of 1 lemon
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cardamon 
650g dried mixed fruit (I used 350g raisins, 150g currants and 150g italian mixed peel)
5 tbps dark rum/brandy/vodka/amaretto
500g marzipan


  1. Mix together the dried fruit and the rum and set to one side to allow the flavours to mix together. You could even do this over night if you remember.
  2. Reserve about 2 tbsps of the flour to one side then put the rest into a large bowl with the sugar, salt, spices and yeast.
  3. In a saucepan put the reserved flour and lemon zest and gradually beat in the milk until it is thoroughly combined with no lumps. Then bring the mixture just to the boil. Remove from the heat and place in another bowl to one side. 
  4. Using the same saucepan gently melt the butter so it just becomes liquid then beat it into the milk and flour mixture. 
  5. Now, make a well in the centre of the flour and spices and pour in the milk and butter mixture. Bring everything together so that you've got a sticky dough. This is easiest with your hands. Then leave for 10 minutes. 
  6. For the next stage your arms are going to get a bit of a work out but turn on the radio and flour the work surface then get stuck into kneading the dough for 15 minutes or until you have a smooth dough. You may need to add some additional flour but try not to add any more than is absolutely necessary. 
  7. Now stretch the dough out so that you've got a fairly large rectangle. Put the dried fruits and rum mixture on top then carefully knead the whole lot together gathering together any stray bits as needed. 
  8. Divide the dough into the number of stollen you want to make then place in to separate buttered bowls, cover with cling film then leave to rise in a warm place for around 3 hours or until tripled in size.

  1. Punch down the dough, knead for a couple of minutes then cover and leave it to rise for another 30-50 minutes.
  2. Once the dough has risen again, form each one into a rough circle and add 1/3 (or equivalent proportion for the number of loaves you're making) of the marzipan filling in a line through the centre. Fold the edges of the dough over the marzipan so that it is fully enclosed. Place on a greased baking sheet, cover and allow to rise for another hour or more.
  3. Bake in the oven at 180C for about 45-55 minutes until brown.
  4. Once cooked, remove from the oven, brush with melted butter then cover generously with icing sugar and pat on to the loaf to form a solid coating and to seal them.

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