Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Easy Christmas Treats

Recently a friend and I held a Christmas coffee morning to raise money for a charity.  We had the usual mince pies and mulled wine but wanted to offer some other tasty treats.  These are a few of the quick and easy morsels we had on offer.  Most were just foods you can assemble, some were ready made bits that we embellished and others were quick to assemble and cook.

 This cheese board was my favourite, it was so simple but really affective.  I had the christmas tree chopping board but it can easily be put together on a rectangular base.  The added herbs and grapes give it a bright fresh feel and make it even more inviting.  Having the cheese cut into cubes makes it so much easier for everyone to nibble at too.  The finishing touch was the mini babybel on top, I used a tiny cutter to remove the wax star.

This mince meat wreath was great to prepare in advance and bake just before everyone arrived,  I used a 500g Block of Puff Pastry.  Divide in two then roll out one on a floured surface into a rectangle measuring roughly 35cm x 25cm.  Spread with 300g Mincemeat then roll up into a swiss roll using the long edge.  Brush the edge with a little milk to seal then cut into slices about 3cm wide.

Place the slices onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and arrange into a wreath shape leaving a slight gap between each one so it has room to grow.  You can either make a small one or repeat with the rest of the pastry to make a larger one as I did.  Now bake at 180C fan for 20-25 minutes till lovely and golden.

To finish, toast 20g of Sliced Almonds in a dry pan.  When the wreath is cooked,  drizzle a little icing made with icing sugar and lemon juice then scatter on the toasted almonds.

These are so cute and brilliant for kids to do.  They are Tunnocks Tea Cakes topped with a little icing and some sprinkles to look like christmas puddings.  Genius!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016


Bacon & Eggs, a classic combination.  As part of a breakfast, in a sandwich and now in a muffin.  I make a pancetta pie with quails eggs in the middle and everyone loves the surprise hidden away when they bite in and discover the miniature egg tucked inside. I thought it would be a great idea to do the same in a muffin so I've come up with this, not to be confused with the  Bacon & Egg Mc version.

These muffins are flavoured with cheese, a little mustard and flecks of chive which also add some colour.  You could swap things about and add parsley, spring onion, chilli flakes or a different cheese such as Red Leicester.

12 Quails Eggs
300g Plain Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
100g Grated Cheddar
Small Bunch of Chives
Salt & Pepper
6 Rashers of Bacon, cooked and chopped
60g Butter, melted and cooled
1 Egg
3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 x 284ml tub Buttermilk

Boil the Quails eggs for 5 minutes then cool and remove the shells.  Put to one side while you mix the batter.  In a mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients. Put the wet ingredients in a jug and whisk to combine.  Pour the contents of the jug into the bowl and gently fold everything together.  Try not to over mix, it's fine if there are still a few dry bits.

Line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin papers.  Put a large teaspoon of the mixture into each then place one of the eggs on top.  Cover each egg with more mixture till it is all used.

Place the muffins in the oven at 180C / 160C fan for 20-25 minutes and they are cooked through and golden.

These muffins are perfect for kids luch boxes and picnics.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

I recently took part in a recycled craft project which involved a lot of toilet rolls, peanut butter and bird seed.  At the end of it I found myself with a surplus of peanut butter.  I really love the stuff so not particularly an issue but I thought I should make use of it if only to stop me from eating the lot with just a spoon.

So here we have a Bundt cake flavoured with peanut butter, chocolate chips and a chocolate drizzle to finish it off. I used crunchy peanut butter because that's what I had, it gave it a nice texture but smooth would be fine too.

100g Butter
275g Peanut Butter
200g Light Brown Sugar
100g Granulated Sugar
3 Eggs
350g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
200ml Milk
50g Chocolate Chips

Chocolate Drizzle
100g Dark Chocolate
150ml Double Cream
1tbsp Golden Syrup

Heat the Oven to 180C (160C fan).  Grease and flour your bundt tin, I use a cake release spray which I find really effective, particularly in a bundt tin.

Use a free standing mixer or electric hand whisk to cream together the butter, both sugars and peanut butter.  Take a couple of minutes to do this so it becomes light and fluffy.

Now add the eggs, flour, baking powder and milk and mix to combine everything.  Finish by folding in the chocolate chips.

Pour the mix into the prepared tin and level out.  Bake for 45minutes till cooked through and a skewer comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool slightly in the tin then turn out onto a cooling rack.  Whilst the cake cools, make the chocolate drizzle.  In a pan heat the chocolate, cream and golden syrup till the chocolate is melted, do this on a low heat to save the chocolate from burning. Use a spoon to drizzle the chocolate over the cake.  You could also sprinkle on some chopped peanuts to even more nuttiness.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Roast Beef Sandwich with Dunking Gravy

I know you don't need a recipe for a roast beef sandwich but I wanted to share this with you, think of it as more inspiration than recipe.  We had roast beef, not something I do often as it gives me the fear.  I'm always convinced I will mess it up and waste quite an expensive lump of meat.  On this occasion I'm happy to say it was a success and not only was it cooked perfectly but there was enough on the joint to get a further 2 meals out of it.

Who doesn't like a roast beef sandwich, especially when the meat is pink and thinly sliced .  I've pimped it slightly with loads of fried onions but what really makes it is the pot of gravy on the side for dunking.  Oh my word, this is comfort food at its most ultimate, please give it a go, you won't regret it.

Giant Jaffa Cake

Obviously The Bake Off is still inspiring people to get out there and bake.  Since the recent episode I've had so many people ask me about making jaffa cakes that I've decided the easiest thing to do is pop it on here.  So by popular demand here it is.  I've made  one large cake but you can of course halve the recipe and use a fairy cake tin to make 12 regular size cakes.  If you go for the individual cakes, make sure its the shallow fairy cake tins you use and not a deep muffin tin for the correct shape.

Line an 8" cake tin with cling film. Cut up an Orange Jelly (135g pack) and dissolve it in 300ml of boiling water add the zest of 1 Orange. Now pour the jelly into the cake tin and refrigerate till set.

Line a 9" cake tin with parchment and heat the oven to 180C / 160C fan.  If you have one, use a freestanding mixer to whip 2 Eggs and 50g Sugar.  Keep whisking for a good 5 minutes till they have tripled in size and are light and fluffy.

Very gently fold in 50g Self Raising Flour.  Using a metal spoon for this helps to prevent knocking any of the air out.

Pour into your prepared tin, level out and bake for 10-12 minutes.  It should soft and springy to touch when cooked.

Once the cake has cooled, use the clingfilm to lift the jelly from the tin and place the jelly on top of the cake.  Melt 200g Plain Chocolate in a double boiler.  Leave to cool slightly before pouring over the jelly to prevent the jelly from melting.  Cover the cake with the chocolate and run a knife over the top to make the jaffa cake marks 

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Naked Wedding Cake

I was asked recently to make a wedding cake, this is something I have vowed never to do (too much pressure) but this one was different.  

I have wanted to do a naked wedding cake ever since I did a tiered cheese wedding cake, they are quite similar apart from the savoury and sweet thing.  it's all about the construction.  

Light Victoria Sponge, vanilla flecked buttercream and oozing sticky jam. I was overwhelmingly proud of the results.  What d'you reckon?

Friday, 29 April 2016


So far we have had Scones, Butter and Pesto all made with gorgeous foraged Wild Garlic but I promise this is the last of the wild garlic recipes.  The trouble was that I had all this lush pesto that I could not resist using some of it for bread.  I just love making bread and even though it takes a couple of hours, you're only really working for about 20 minutes, the rest of the time it does all the work itself.

I always make double the quantity because I think if you're going to go to the effort of making it, why not make lots.  I would say freeze it if it's too much but it never is and gets eaten pretty much before it's completely cooled.

When I made this batch, I doubled it and made a loaf and some rolls which I then split and spread with Wild Garlic Butter and topped with Pecorino before grilling for garlic bread.

500g Strong White Bread Flour
15g Yeast
320g Warm Water
2 tbsp Wild Garlic Pesto

Mix the flour, yeast and salt. Combine the water with the pesto and mix into the flour with a knife  to form a dough.  Knead it on a lightly oiled surface for 10 minutes till smooth. Now return the dough to the bowl and cover with a shower cap or cling film.  Rest for 1 hour till doubled in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and 'knock back' to original size.  Form into your loaf shape or divide it into 12 pieces, they should weigh about 80g each.  Shape each one and leave to rest on a baking sheet or stone and cover with a tea towel.  Rest for a further hour to double again. Before baking, slash the tops with a sharp knife. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 200C

Monday, 11 April 2016


And so it continues, more Wild Garlic recipes. This,  like the Wild Garlic Butter, is a recipe which gives a longer life to your reward from woodland foraging and I have even been known to spread a little onto The Wild Garlic Scones from last weeks blog.

Just like regular basil pesto, everything goes in a processor and gets blitzed to within an inch of it's life.  The recipe is pretty much the same but you omit the garlic and replace the basil with wild garlic leaves.

60g Pine Nuts
100g Wild Garlic Leaves
60g Pecorino / Parmesan grated
250ml Olive Oil
Black Pepper

Start by toasting the pine nuts, pop them into a dry pan and heat till they start to brown.  Toasting them helps to bring out the flavour more.  Now add them to the processor along with the garlic leaves and pecorino.  Whizz everything together then while it's still running, slowly pour in the oil till you get the consistency you are happy with, you may use less of the oil than I have recommended, I like quite a loose blend.  Season with black pepper but not salt, the cheese is already quite salty. Store in a jam jar in the fridge or even freeze if you like.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

SMOKEY WILD GARLIC BUTTER - Lamb Leg Steaks & Wild Garlic Mash

So far I've made scones with the wild garlic leaves which I gathered from some woodland foraging but to ensure I get the most form my delicious tender bounty, I've made wild garlic butter which I know I shall be adding to everything I possibly can in the coming weeks.  

Flavoured butters are a fantastic way of using up left over herbs that are a bit past their best.  You can keep them in the freezer and just chop a bit off as required.  I've also added some smoked salt flakes to this for an extra smack of flavour.

This could not be simpler, chop a 250g block of unsalted butter, use salted if you are not adding the smoked salt. Drop the butter into a food processor and add 50g of Wild Garlic Leaves and a generous teaspoon of Smoked Salt Flakes.

Whizz everything together till the leaves are finely chopped and you have a soft vivid spread.  Divide it into two and form each into a log and wrap in parchment.

You are now ready to boost your cooking with a hit of wild garlic.  Now I realise that not everything on your plate has to be cooked in this enhanced butter but for the purposes of this blog, that's just what I've done and to be honest, there were no complaints.

I heated a thick slice of wild garlic butter in a large frying pan with 1 tbsp of oil to stop the butter burning.  Once the butter started to sizzle I added seasoned lamb leg steaks and cooked them for about 4 minutes on each side. Serve with a drizzle of the wild garlic butter.

We had the lamb with a feta & Onion salad and creamy mashed potato with yes, you guessed it, wild garlic butter and a handful of wild garlic leaves stirred through it.  What's not to like!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016


At this time of year you can't walk through woodland without coming across a heady carpet of wild garlic covering the shaded floor. I always think it a sign that spring is really upon us and I start to imaging the possibility of some sunshine round the corner, a little naively perhaps.

The pungent odour of wild garlic or Ramsons as it's also known hits you way before you spot the floppy lush leaves. It also grows along the edge of rivers and has a pretty white allium flower.

Its a relative of the chive and can be used as you would spinach, cooked or raw and the flavour can be quite subtle depending on how you use it.

I found mine in some woodland in North Wales, just be mindful if you go foraging and check you are allowed to pick it from it's location

We've had a week of eating wild garlic and I've started with savoury scones. You can use any hard cheese for this recipe, I thought it would be nice to use Yarg, a semi hard cheese from Cornwall that is traditionally wrapped in garlic or nettle leaves to mature but I couldn't find any so good old cheddar it was. You may have more luck than I.

They are so lovely straight from the oven, split and slathered in butter. I usually double this recipe up and make them quite large yielding about 9 but if you go smaller and make lots, they are great to freeze and warm from frozen.

400g Self Raising Flour
70g Butter
1 tsp Dried Mustard
130g Cheese grated
20g Wild Garlic Leaves chopped
Salt & Pepper
200g Milk

Preheat the oven to 190C fan and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Rub the butter into the flour till there are no lumps, add the mustard and seasoning and stir through the cheese.

Fold in to chopped garlic leaves till it's speckled evenly with green then pour your milk in gradually whilst string to combine. I find using a knife is best for this. Don't worry if you need to add a little more milk if it's a bit dry.

Once everything is in, bring it together with your hands and tip the dough onto a floured surface.  Knead it gently just to bring it together into a smooth ball.

Roll out the dough slightly, I find that to get a good thick scone, slightly under the depth of your cutter is a good guide for the thickness of your dough.  Cut out the scones then re-roll the remaining dough till it has all been used. Brush the tops with milk then bake for 20-25 minutes till cooked through and golden.

Monday, 14 March 2016


So here is an alternative idea for your Easter lamb.  Sainsbury's gave me a challenge of cooking a leg of lamb but adding a 'Little Twist' and using ginger beer. Here is what I came up with.

Ginger beer already has a bit of heat to it so the addition of Indian spices are the perfect marriage.  If you're organised enough you can marinade your lamb over night but it's still super delicious if you do it an hour or so before cooking.  You could cover the base of your roasting dish with slices of waxy potatoes such as Charlotte or Jersey Royals to cook your lamb on, they will cook in the juices and soak up all those lovely flavours.

Slow cooking the meat gives it a melt in the mouth texture that just falls of the bone. I marinade the lamb the day before then pop it in the oven when I get up in the morning.  I don't have to think about it then untill lunch time and it's ready to serve.  The gravy from this dish was delicious, the indian spices and a bit of sweetness from the ginger beer made it very popular indeed.

1tsp Ground Coriander
2tsp Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp Tumeric
1 tsp Cinnamon
3 Garlic Cloves crushed
1 Thumb of Ginger peeled and grated
Lemon Juice to mix paste
31g pack fresh Coriander chopped
2.5kg Leg of Lamb
500g Charlotte Potatoes (optional)
500ml Ginger Beer

In a bowl combine all the spices, garlic and ginger then add enough lemon juice to form a slightly runny paste and stir in the coriander.  Pierce the meat all over.  Smother the lamb with the marinade and massage it in.  Seal in a large food bag or non-metalic container and chill over night.

When you are ready to cook your lamb, heat the oven to 150C.  Place the marinated lamb in a deep sided flame proof roasting dish and pour the ginger beer around it.  Seal with a lid or foil and leave it to cook for 5 hours, basting from time to time.

Once the lamb has cooked, carefuly remove it from the pan and cover with foil to keep it warm.  Skim off any excess fat and transfer the pan to the hob to make a gravy.  Add 2tbsp of flour, stir for a couple of minutes to cook the flour and thicken your gravy, you can add a little hot water to make it go a bit further if you like.

You can now serve your lamb with the gravy poured over it or separtely with rice or the potatoes if using.