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Posts tagged ‘bake’

Fairtrade chocolate tiffin

October 4, 2012



The best thing about the little chill in the air? Chocolate takes a lot longer to melt so I get to make and scoff one of my all-time favourites without getting my fingers quite so sticky.

The chocolate tiffin. This week I had the pleasure of opening a beautiful tote bag of Fairtrade baking goodies send out as part of their brilliant Big Fair Bake Campaign. A bounty of nuts, dried fruits and dark chocolates made me immediately think of tiffin.

This is such a simple no-bake recipe that really does taste like it has taken time. You can make it as budget or as expensive as you like, with the fruits and nuts you use dictating the overall taste. In February I blogged the basic recipe but here I packed in brazils, almonds and hazelnuts for the nuts, sultanas and apricots for the fruit and broke-up homemade shortbread for the biscuit. Plus a handful of Maltesers – the chocolate melts but the honeycomb remains whole.

The result is a perfectly decadent  blend of rich chewy crunchiness that warms up your insides, more so when you know you are supporting global trade that is proper, right and fair.



Oat & raisin cookies

September 24, 2012




What a miserable, windy rainy day. Kind of day you want to hibernate, watch old films, drink many cups of tea and dunk biscuits until the outlook is not so bleak.

I accidentally made these chewy cookies when I went to boil the kettle. Needs must. They were to be the Oat, ginger & date recipe I wrote about in June and by the looks of it, on a very similar day. Just no ginger and date this time, I went with 100g raisins and 50g chopped hazelnuts.

The end result: a stack of equally comforting golden biscuits to eat and eat until it is less grey.

Blackberry buckle

September 19, 2012



Quick, it’s berry season, get in as many as you can! This season really reminds me of being a littly at the bottom of nanny seaside’s garden, packing as many plump berries as I could fit into my already full, hamster-like, stained pink cheeks. There was then the added pleasure of rubbing the fruit over my lips to make lipstick. Heaven. I’d like to have done that over in the blackberry bushes in Hackney Marshes, there were literally 1000’s of them, ripe for the picking.

I am playing with berries in every way I can this week; freezing*,  jamming, sorbet-ing, purée-ing, juicing, staining (my face) : anything to keep them in my life for a little while longer. Best though, when the light is lowering and that brings a chill is a good hearty, berry crumble or a slab of berry juicy pudding. Or both.

One of my favourite people in the world makes a to-die-for Blueberry buckle; this is like the US version of the cobbler but rather than making a floury batter topping over the fruit, the mix is made then the fruit stirred in, with a buttery oat layer scattered to finish. The result is a lovely combination of doughy, juicy sponge with a crunchier, crumble crust.

He uses a recipe by Martha Stewart with a strudel topping plus extra zest, I have tweaked this slightly by adding an extra egg to the main mix, nuts and oats to give more crunch. You can obviously try any fruit you wish but personally, the tart little blackberry is a winner for me.



*Freezing and then making the blackberry ice cream cake by Nigel Slater in September’s  Observer Food Monthly is a great way to save berries and use them later, with minimal effort.



Orange & lemon cake

August 24, 2012




Oranges and lemons. Fruits I normally like squeezed in my glass, rather than additions to a bake, especially when the recipe calls for the whole fruit, peel, pith and all. That said, the simplicity of the Claudia Roden orange cake recipe (first published in 1963), cited in the excellent The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit, intrigued me. Just five ingredients in Claudia’s cake with no fat nor gluten in sight, the kind of recipe you’d look and think something must have been left out.

The fruit is boiled for two hours prior so the peel looses its bitterness and the juices become sweeter, the whole fruit is then pulped and added to the mix, then baked for an hour. The result is – I don’t say this very often – fantastic. A really light, fresh slice of cake that really does melt in your mouth.

I added a lemon to the stewing oranges to up the more zesty flavours. I want to give some other nuts a try like hazelnuts and different fruits  –  like cherries or even plums might be worth a go.

As it is, this is definitely, my new favourite.



Cream Horns – Olympic torches

August 3, 2012



I said I would not succumb to baking anything remotely related to the games. Then I got all excited at the opening ceremony. Then I got excited about the swimmers. Then I needed something to eat whilst watching the swimmers. Then I found a recipe for ‘cream horns’ whilst searching for dear old Gran Crichton’s shortbread in an excellent 1950’s cookbook – Odham’s Encyclopedia Of Cookery. Then I laughed because I have never not laughed at ‘cream horns’. Now I have made these and called them torches. Now I am going to eat them….whilst watching more medals being won.

Fill these with anything you like; I added a honey glaze and sprinkled with chopped nuts, so they are a bit like baklava. You can dip them in chocolate, roll them in cinnamon, cover with edible glitter if you so wished. Even go savoury as the book suggested, with whipped cream and….prawn. See, anything is possible.



Lemon poppyseed cake

July 30, 2012


Now, if you were an Olympic athlete who had been hard at it all day, what cake would you want to reward yourself with?

I think I would go for this.

Very M-word, light yet dense, with a slightly crunchy texture and a citrus summer flavour, it has a little bit of everything.

This one is the best recipe I have come across from Dan Lepard as it feels fresher and more zesty than the traditional, dressed up, lemon drizzle sponges. Like a carrot cake, nearly half the fat is sunflower oil with the lemon-sugar syrup soaked through the cake once it is baked rather than having a heavier buttery frosting sitting on top.

Even nicer with a spoonful of marscapone and a raspberry or two on the side. Definitely a champion of cakes, best with a cuppa whilst sitting back to enjoy the gymnastics.



Date, ginger & oat biscuits

June 21, 2012


Do not let the weather get you down. Do not. Make these instead, the ultimate ‘cheer up’ biscuit.

Light and not too sweet, the wafts from the oven are so good, I bet you sink one even before the kettles boiled.

These were adapted from a Popina recipe; using dates instead of sultanas with more oats, less flour plus fresh ginger.  Also nice with a squeeze of lemon.

I recommend making double.

infographic - biscuit

Stuffed mackerel

June 15, 2012


stuffed mackerel


Grilled, steamed, pan-fried, bbq’d, baked.

This little fishy can be packed with any herbs and spices you feel like, cooked in 20 mins or less, served alone or with some fresh seasonal veg.

Cheap (these were 49p each) and rich in the flavour as well as the omega oils. Versatile too – I like this ‘them apples’ post where the ‘mackerel in batter’ recipe is given a go from Hugh’s sustainable fishing campaign; encouraging a replacement to the over fished white haddock and cod we get with our chips.

This recipe of coriander, lemongrass, ginger, chilli and garlic goes well with basmati. Stuffed with garlic, mushroom, parsley and lemon is equally as good, with buttered asparagus and jersey royals. You can also fill them with cherry tomatoes, lemon garlic and thyme with a hunk of crusty bread and a green leafy salad.

Mackerel; the all-giving fish to serve up for supper!


infographic stuffed mackerel



Niknok’s granola

June 15, 2012



I know it is so very British to complain about the weather but seriously ‘damp and wet’ must end soon or I will be knee-deep in things to make from scratch to enjoy once the sun comes out. I have literally started a summer hibernation making all sorts of sauces, preserves, jams and granola.

Granola gets mixed responses as a healthy whole food in that, like flapjacks, although it’s all grains and seeds, they can be overloaded with fat and sugars. This does not have to be the case and neither do you have to take out the nice bits and feel like your munching on taste-free rabbit food to be eating ‘right’. Like with anything, a bit of common sense moderation is required and if you are going to eat 150g of the stuff for breakfast, perhaps you might like to walk/run/paddle to work. I like it full-fat and full flavoured as a sprinkle over the top a massive bowl of ripe fresh fruit and yoghurt.

Rachel Allen’s recipe is a good base with the ratio of grains, seeds, nuts and fruit with sugars well-balanced although I did find this one overly sweet with too much going on and I did have to omit the dried apricots – not for me thank you.

The recipe below is simplified therefore cheaper version with no seeds but still packed full of flavour. As long as you keep the dry weights the same you can swap and change your nuts, dried fruits, sugar, spices too – try pecans with dried banana and maple syrup or figs with pistachio and a squeeze of lemon in with the honey. You can also use olive oil for the fat, although personally I love the more buttery flavour. How about with some chunks of dark chocolate over vanilla ice cream?

Store in a big clip top jar and hope you get to munch on it at least one sunny day this month.


Victoria sponge

June 1, 2012


jubliee victoria sponge

The Victoria Sponge; subtle, elegant and dignified. You can see why she favoured it for that afternoon pick me up slice. For me, when baked to perfection with the right filling, it really is the cake of all cakes.

Simple and yet so easy to get wrong – my first was solid, heavier than the crown jewels – it is worth taking time, following some sound instruction.

An original from Mrs.Beeton’s 1891 Book of Household Management sees her weighing the eggs to determine the equal weights of butter, sugar and flour with the eggs beaten, added last. This is still the way many choose to make it. Others cream softened butter with the caster sugar until light and fluffy before adding the eggs, one by one, then folding in the flour.

Mary Berry’s more modern offering opts for a soft margerine to help keep the sponge light, blending all together all at once, rather than creaming and beating separately. Personally, I prefer the sponge flavour with the buttery traditional method.

This recipe was given to me a few years ago by my friend and Jeremy Lee’s excellent head chef Lee Urch at Quo Vadis. It never fails to impress. Baked high then lowered for longer than most, the texture is incredible.

Fill it with jam, whipped cream and handfuls of berries and it really is fit for a queen.

infographic victoria sponge cake