Recipes Section

September 18th, 2011

A Very Chocolatey Birthday Cake Category: Recipes

My Dad was 60 in August so my task was to make a cake as usual, however, he isn’t he biggest fan of sweet buttercream and doesn’t like the amount of icing normally accompanying the traditional maderia style cake.

So I got my thinking cap on & after discounting making a train cake (his present to is learn how to drive a steam train!) I remembered the cake Lorraine Pascale had made on her TV series with chocolate sponge with chocolate buttercream (which isn’t too sweet) and fresh fruit – the ‘I can’t believe you made that’ cake.

Now I did leave it a bit late to co-ordinate what I needed as Anthony and my brothers were taking part in a 24hr mountain bike race which also involved our first camping holiday so I was quite busy balancing a few things. The result of this was a lack of chocolate cigarellos. I had assumed I would be able to order them from my usual online cake suppliers but they didn’t sell them. A number of others do, but I was very surprised at how expensive they were and I would have had to pay for fast delivery.

After some thought we abandoned the cigarellos and used the retro-sweets Matchmakers (orange flavour).

Se here we go – one chocolate cake with fresh raspberries.

The cake on the table

The cake went down really well and everybody enjoyed it.  It wasn’t too sweet and the matchmakers worked well, but a word of warning they are fragile so if you are transporting the cake any distance maybe take some extra matchsticks & a small pot of buttercream to glue back into position!

The cake on the plate

One alternative to matchmakers I had been considering was using wafer cigarillo type biscuits but I couldn’t source what I wanted at short notice. However, I have since found that the Harvey Nichols pop-up shop in Liverpool One selling them & think these would work just as well.

The cake on the table

The Recipe – from Lorraine Pascale

You will need a 20cm/8in round deep cake tin and a 20cm/8in cake board.


  • 200g/7oz butter, softened (plus a little extra to coat tin)
  • 200g/7oz caster sugar
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 140g/5oz plain flour
  • 60g/2½oz cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 400g/14oz plain, milk, or white chocolate cigarillos (about 75–80 in total)

For the buttercream

  • 250g/9oz butter, softened
  • 500g/1lb 2oz icing sugar
  • 100g/3½oz good dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent cocoa solids), melted and slightly cooled

For the decoration

  • Fresh raspberries or strawberries


Preheat the oven to 180/C/350F/Gas 4

Line the cake tin with baking paper and rub a little bit of soft butter around the tin

Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until they begin to go pale. Add half of the eggs and half of the flour and mix well. Add the rest of the eggs, flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder and beat for a minute or two.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 30–40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

To make the buttercream – put the butter and icing sugar in a bowl and whisk together until the mixture goes fluffy. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and whisk for a further two minutes.

The original instructions are to leave the cake in the tin until it is completely cool, however I prefer to take mine out & cool on a wire rack.

Cut the top of the cake flat with a large serrated knife and turn the cake upside down on the cake board so that the bottom now becomes a flat top. Split the cake horizontally and sandwich the top and bottom together with a 1cm/½in layer of buttercream.

Spread half of the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides of the cake, making it as smooth as possible. Put it in the fridge to set before doing another layer – this makes it much easier to get neat squared-off edges.

Gently push the cigarillos, or matchmakers, vertically onto the sides of the cake, positioning them as straight as possible and making sure they touch the bottom.


July 5th, 2011

Strawberry Picking, Jam & Scones Category: Recipes

We spent a lovely sunny Saturday afternoon at Claremont Farm Pick Your Own with Elodie. I wasn’t sure if she would enjoy picking strawberries, but they are one of her favourites at the moment & when we mentioned a tractor ride she was rather excited about it!

She took to picking strawberries like a duck to water and had the biggest advantage – little legs so less bending down! Anthony was supervising the strawberries she picked for her basket & between us we quickly filled up two containers.

So, what do you do with 2kg of Strawberries? Jam was high on my list (as it has been on my To Make list for too long) but by the next morning I no longer had 2kg of fresh juicy strawberries I had 1kg & something left after everyone had been helping themselves. But I still had enough for 1/2 the amount!

The recipe I used was an Easy Strawberry Jam from the Womens Institute.  I am glad to say it worked & was relatively easy to make.  First of all I washed & prepared the strawberries

Then they sat in the pan for just over an hour with the jam sugar & some lemon juice

When the jam jars had been sterilised & drying in the oven I put the heat on & simmered away until the jam reached its setting point (it took me nearer 25 minutes to get to this stage rather than the 15-18 minutes the recipe mentions)

I misread the recipe & didn’t leave the fruit to stand for 15-20 minutes which is supposed to stop the fruit from rising in the jars.  But the fruit was no longer in big pieces so I guess it doesn’t matter! The jam was carefully spooned into the jars & the lids put on tightly.

However, the lid of the first jar didn’t stay on for long.  Elodie enjoyed warm jam sandwiches for lunch & I made some scones later in the day.

From field to scone in 24 hours.  Not too bad?!

May 28th, 2011

The Perfect Chilli Con Carne? Category: Recipes

Anthony has been asking for a Chilli for ages and I keep making excuses. Its not that I dislike it, its just that I tend to prefer other things for dinner.

Tonight he eventually got his way and made his own after some research for a good recipe. That is when he came across an article on the Guardians Word of Mouth Blog – How to cook the perfect chilli con carne.

He quickly decided that he wanted to make the perfect chilli con carne but we did find it difficult to source the ingredients and we swapped the speciality chillis for a hot red one & some dried chilli flakes, Mexican oregano for dried oregano and we forgot the sugar. We also added half a tin of tomatoes at the end to bulk things out too.

We were slightly disappointed with our version, I couldn’t taste any coffee but Anthony thinks it added to the base layer of flavour. And the overall heat was much less than I had expected but it did leave me with a slightly tingly tongue! We’ll see how it develops overnight/in freezer.

January 25th, 2011

Celeriac Soup Category: Cooking for..., Recipes

Last week Elodie had a quick taste of Celeriac soup & it went down a treat, so this weekend I made some for us.  The recipe was really easy and quick to make, the soup itself was velvety and filling.  The recipe I used was a Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall one from River Cottage:


  • 50g butter
  • 1 celeriac
  • 1 potato
  • 1 leek
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 litre chicken stock

1. Peel & chop the celeriac and potato

2. Peel & chop onion,

3. Slice the garlic & leek

4. Melt the butter on  a low heat and add the vegetables.  Put the lid on the pan to help the vegetables sweat down.  I left the for about 20 minutes.

5. Add chicken stock and leave to cook for 20 minutes until celeriac is tender.

6. Leave to cool slightly then blitz with a blender.

7. To serve, heat soup thoroughly.

We enjoyed ours with the last of my River Cottage Bread.  A simple, filling and very tasty midweek dinner.

Elodie cleaned her bowl and has since been feeding her baby soup. I think she enjoyed it! (well, for the timebeing).  I managed to get 3 Elodie portions & 2 large dinner portions out of the above recipe. I have frozen two of the small portions & I think they will be ok.

Hugh suggests that you swirl some Parsley & Walnut Pesto through it but we didn’t and it was fine without. Though we did swirl a little cream through the adult portions but to be honest it didn’t make much difference.

January 31st, 2010

Chicken and sweet leek pie Category: Recipes


Tonights dinner wasn’t something I’d normally make when trying to eat more healthily, but I am participating in a forum monthly challenge and this months recipe certainly made Anthony smile. In fact, anything with sausages makes Anthony happy. The recipe is taken from Jamie’s Dinners – I halved everything to make dinner for two but even they were extremely generous portions.



Serves 4

  • Olive Oil
  • 2 knobs butter
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks (Mr Oliver uses 1kg/2lb 3oz boned and skinned chicken legs, cut into pieces)
  • 2 medium leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced into 1cm pieces
  • 2 carrots peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 sticks of celery finely sliced
  • A small handful of thyme, leaves picked
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 wineglass of white wine
  • ½ pint milk
  • s&p
  • 225g good pork sausages
  • 1 x 500g pack of all butter puff pastry
  • 1 egg

Carry on reading & leave a comment…

January 27th, 2010

Fish Pie Category: Recipes

At the weekend my Uncle cooked a buffet of fish pie, chilli, haggis (the real stuff) and stir fry for my Grans birthday. The fish pie was lovely and Elodie had a mouthful too so last night I set about making my own, but under orders from Anthony, it was to contain NO prawns. I shouldn’t complain though as he is a reasonably new convert to fish.


Cod & Salmon Fish Pie
Salmon Loin, skinned
Cod Loin, skinned
1 pint milk
5 peppercorns,
1 carrot, peeled and cut into quarters
1 onion, peeled & halved
15g butter
15g plain flour
2 maris piper potatoes
butter (for mashing potatoes)

1. Poach fish in milk with carrot, onion and peppercorns
2. Put potatoes on to boil
3. When fish is cooked, take the fish out & put to one side
4. Remove carrot, onion & peppercorns and throw away (keep the milk!)
5. Melt butter in pan & add flour, cook through for a minute
6. Slowly add milk to the roux and stir until sauce thickens
7. Drain & mash potatoes
8. Flake fish into dish, top with dill and sauce then put mashed potato on top
9. Cook for 20 minutes at 200°c