Comforting apple crumble

October 18th, 2008


A work colleague very kindly gave me a huge bag full of glorious cooking apples to post a sponsored story on facebook, so ever since I have been dreaming up lots of lovely autumny recipes to use them in. The first thing that came to mind was apple crumble. Surly this is the pinnacle of desserts. It’s perfectly simplistic and with its warming and wholly comforting taste, whether you like it with ice cream, cream or custard, it is the perfect way end to and autumn family meal.

serves 6


4 or 5 large cooking apples, peeled and cut into thumb sized pieces
1 tablespoon of soft dark brown sugar
finely grated zest of a large orange
120g plain flour
85g fridge cold butter cut into cubes
4 tbsp golden caster sugar
4 tbsp ground almonds

Put the cut apples into a bowl, add the soft dark brown sugar and the orange zest and mix well. Tip into an oven proof dish. In a food processor put the flour and the butter and whizz until it resembles bread crumbs. Don’t overdo this bit, it doesn’t matter if there are larger bits of butter still left. Add the sugar and almonds and whizz briefly to mix together. Scatter the topping evenly over the fruit and cook in a 180 degree centigrade oven for about forty minutes.

Apple crumble and ice cream

The orange zest and dark brown sugar give the apples a rich toffee taste which is delicious. Serve warm with ice cream, cream or custard, yummy.

A Happier tale

October 15th, 2008

Sausage sandwich with green tomato chutney

Even though I didn’t manage to gather any sloes due to poor weather, I am still reaping the benefits of the pathetic summer with my green tomato chutney. Our favourite way to eat the chutney is thickly spread on some crusty warm ciabatta and topped with juicy oven cooked pork sausages. A warming and comforting Saturday lunch to keep out the winter cold (that is if it actually gets cold this year). 

Humble Harvest

October 13th, 2008


I went out into the fields this weekend with the intention of gathering armfuls of sloes from the hedgerows but the above picture is the sum total of our sloe harvest after two days foraging. Last year the bushes were heaving with them and I managed to turn over a kilo of sloes into two and a half litres of sloe gin, but this year the bushes were barren and the only ones we could see were either waist deep in nettles or just too high to reach. I am now regretting demolishing last years gin over a period of a couple of months as I have no sweet liqueur to see me through the winter. 


I did however spot lots of rose hips so I am going to attempt to make some rose hip syrup to drizzle on pancakes or stir into thick greek yoghurt. It means I have to go out into the hedgerows again at the weekend but if the weather is as nice as it was last weekend it won’t be much of a hardship.

The Final Showdown

October 6th, 2008

Wedding cake

I have been talking about making this wedding cake for a while now but the time has come and gone and I have had time to relax after spending long hours in the kitchen baking, lining cake tins, icing and washing up and then transporting the cake to Stranraer from Coventry and then across the Irish sea when the weather wasn’t exactly clement.

Wedding cake

Even when the cake had survived all of those things it still had to be stacked, the gerberas applied and centres piped and then sit in a roasting warm room ready for the wedding party. Having said all that it turned out really well. The bride was very pleased with the result and the colours matched the bridesmaids dresses and flowers perfectly. The chocolate cake was moist and rich and the victoria sponge was soft and buttery and was enjoyed by everyone. This is only the second wedding cake I have made and I learn’t a few things making it. I will take this knowledge onto the next wedding cake, whenever that may be.

Congratulations to Mr and Mrs McStravick, may their marriage be a long and happy one.

Lazy Early Autumn Days

September 20th, 2008

Green tomato chutney

I have been playing on the Nintendo Wii for the last 8 hours with only the odd brief hiatus for a toilet break or to eat, so my hand has now formed some sort of claw shape making typing some what challenging. I have to admit I have had a pretty unproductive day, although I was up at 8am which is unusual for me at the weekend, so I felt I had to redeem myself and tell you about the chutney I made with my abysmal tomato crop this year.

Green tomatoes from the garden

I harvested them a couple of weeks ago because the weather was so appalling that the plants were starting to die. I looked up a recipe for green tomato chutney and found this one. I pretty much followed it to the letter but, incapable as I am at sticking to a recipe, I substituted some of the caster sugar for dark muscovado. The result was a lovely sweet and spicy chutney that doesn’t need much maturing, so we have been having it spread on some oven warmed ciabatta with delicious pork sausages.  

There is nothing better to ease you into autumn’s colder days than chutney and of course my amazingly cosy new slippers.

Comfy slippers

Cake Wrecks

September 10th, 2008

Just a quick post to mention Cake Wrecks, a blog dedicated to the disasters of the cake baking and decorating world. I was pointed in this blog’s direction by a comment from Jo and I spotted this post and pretty much laughed myself silly. My cake disasters don’t look too bad now eh? Take a look. 

Gooey Brownies

September 10th, 2008

Chocolate brownies

There is nothing better than tucking into a really rich, chocolately, gooey brownie and they are so easy to make, so I thought I would satisfy my chocolate urge and make a batch. I tend to follow Rachel Allen’s recipe in her book Rachel’s Favourite Food but sometimes play around with the recipe. I like to put nuts into my brownies as I think they really compliment the chocolate flavour, especially hazelnuts, and help to keep them moist but I’m never sure about putting nuts into them when they are for other people as not everybody likes them (in this instance they should be taken out and shot for the weird anti-nut people they are…. just kidding, don’t write in!)

This time I just went for rich dark chocolate swirled with white chocolate and very nice they were too. 

Makes about 14 large brownies

180g butter

150g good quality dark chocolate

100g good quality white chocolate

3 eggs

175g golden caster sugar

75g dark muscovado sugar

110g plain flour

tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade and line a swiss roll tin (9 x 13 inch) with greaseproof paper. Melt the butter and dark chocolate in a bowl over some barely simmering water being careful not to overheat the chocolate. In another bowl melt the white chocolate then set it aside. Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together in a bowl until light and doubled in volume. Once melted, let the chocolate cool for a minute or two and then stir into the eggs and sugar mixture. Sift the flour and fold into the mixture then tip into the prepared tin, spreading it out to the sides. Take the white chocolate and drizzle spoonfuls over the top of the mixture and then take a skewer and swirl the white chocolate a little to make a nice pattern. Cook the brownies for about 15 to 20 minutes. They will still seem very soft and undercooked when they come out, the mixture will not spring back when you touch, it isn’t like a sponge. Everyones oven is different and it may be a bit of trial and error to begin with but that is no hardship as they will still be good to eat. Cut while still warm and take out of the tin when cool. Enjoy


Pingu cake

September 8th, 2008

Pingu cake

This is the Pingu cake I’ve been working on for a little boy’s second birthday. I was also given the added task of making it gluten and nut free, arrrgghh. I did, however, find a recipe that was just that. The actual recipe was for a lemon drizzle cake that used ground almonds but it suggested using polenta instead of the ground almonds for a nut free version.

I knew I wanted to make an iceberg and that came out quite nicely but I’m still not altogether happy with my modeling of animals and people. I feel I need lessons as I don’t think I’m getting the consistency right with the paste and I’m not even sure I’m using the right products. Anyway, let’s just say that Pingu is genetically modified or maybe his appearance has something to do with him eating contaminated fish, same goes for Robbie the seal. The next project is my cousin’s three tier wedding cake that I have to transport across the Irish sea in four weeks time, wish me luck. 


Fish and Chips

August 26th, 2008

Crisp battered fish

I have always been a bit wary of trying battered fish as I had visions of a blazing chip pan inferno and fire engines carrying uniformed, sweaty, powerful men to help hose down your ikea kitchen cabinets, rescue your kitty from the next door neighbours tree etc. etc. (well every cloud has a sliver lining). I opened this months Good Food magazine and spied Golden beer battered fish with chips and plucked up the courage to give it a go. This recipe oven bakes the chips so you have just the one pan to keep your eye on and everything can be served at the same time minus the singed eyebrows. 

The recipe turned out quite nicely but I made a few adjustments as I felt the chips weren’t very crisp. I think this was because there wasn’t enough oil used and I don’t think they were boiled long enough. The recipe also mixed the flour and cold oil together with the chips before being put in the oven. I think tossing the steaming chips in the flour and heating the oil in the oven first should make sure they come out crisp.

The other problem was that the fish fillets were not as nice and thick as I would have hoped but I think a trip to the fish mongers early on a Saturday morning might remedy that instead of relying on the supermarket. I also would have liked the batter to be a bit thicker, so I reduced the amount of liquid in the recipe.

Give it a go and tell me what, if any other alterations you would make.

Serves 2

For the Fish:

50g plain flour

50g cornflour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp tumeric

75ml fridge cold lager

50 ml fridge cold sparkling water

1 ltr sunflower oil

400g fillet sustainable cod, hake or haddock


For the chips:

750g maris piper potatoes, peeled and cut into chunky chips

2 tbsp plain flour

4 tsp olive oil


Begin by making the batter. Put the flours, seasoning and baking soda into a bowl. Set aside 1 tbsp of the mixture onto a plate then, whilst whisking slowly, add the liquid to the bowl combining until it forms a smooth lump free batter. Put in the fridge for about 30 mins.

Heat the oven to about 190 degrees centigrade. Put the olive oil onto a baking sheet and put in the oven to heat up. Heat a pan of salted water to boiling point and add the chips. Cook for about three or four minutes until the outside is slightly soft, drain and rough the edges of the chips by shaking them gently in the pan. Toss the chips immediately in the flour and add them to the hot oil. Turn them around carefully in the oil and put into the oven. Cook for about 35 to 40 minutes until golden and crisp. 

Heat the sunflower oil in a deep pan until a drop of batter crisps up immediately when dropped into the hot oil. Dry the fish by patting it with kitchen paper then toss in the flour that you set aside earlier and shake off the excess. Drape the fish into the batter to cover completely, allow the excess to drip off briefly, then lower the fish into the hot oil and lay it away from you. Cook for about 6-8 mins depending on the thickness of your fillet, until golden. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle sea salt over the top, keep warm. Repeat with the other fillet. Remove the chips from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve immediately with some home made tartare sauce.

Fish and chips


Eggs Benedict

August 24th, 2008


Eggs benedict

I have always wanted to perfect poached eggs but never quite got them right, until now. I came across a blog post from Smitten Kitchen on the subject and plucked up my courage to give it a go and hey presto! perfect poached eggs. My new found skill has been featuring a lot now and I really wanted to try making the classic eggs Benedict. The only hard parts about it are making the hollandaise, although you could buy it, and of course poaching the eggs, so most of it really. Here’s my take on it, I hope you give it a try. 


serves 2

1 English muffin (not the sort you have with coffee, they are very different)

2 fresh large eggs and 1 small egg yolk

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 heaped tsp mustard

75g fridge cold unsalted butter cut into cubes (this is supposed to be clarified butter but I couldn’t be bothered)

seasoning (don’t add salt if you are using salted butter)

2 slices good quality ham 

First make the hollandaise sauce by putting the egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice and seasoning into a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until it begins to froth and then start adding the butter a cube at a time, whisking it in as it melts. Continue to do this until the butter is used up and the sauce has a thick soft whipped cream consistency. Check the seasoning and then set to one side.

Cut the muffin in half and lightly toast then top each half with the ham and keep warm in a low oven.

To make the poached eggs put a large pan of water with splash of vinegar on the hob and bring to simmering point. Break each egg into a dish first (I cook each one separately to avoid disaster), swirl the water and drop the egg into the middle of the water vortex. Let it set a little for a few seconds and very gently tease it off the bottom so that it doesn’t stick. Cook for about three or four minutes, remove the egg with a slotted spoon and set the spoon onto some kitchen paper to drain. Then gently slide the egg onto the warm ham and muffin and top with a dollop of hollandaise. Repeat the process for the other egg. Delicious