Stuff yer bake The mad ramblings of a Northern Irish foodie. Tue, 20 May 2008 22:03:26 +0000 en Baby blues Tue, 20 May 2008 20:47:43 +0000 Sarah Bell Baby cake

I wanted to make a cake for my friend who was going off on maternity leave last week so I thought I would try and make a baby out of sugar paste and put various baby paraphernalia around it to jazz it up a bit. When I made the baby I somehow managed to make it look like it had mild learning difficulties and having run out of time, couldn’t really remedy the situation. I tried to think of various things to put with the baby and considering it’s unfortunate appearance a pair of calipers and a wheelchair seemed most appropriate. I thought that the baby looked a little naughty as well as slightly retarded so making a big mess on the top of the cake was probably best and also didn’t require too much technical skill or worry of messing it up. I was actually reasonably happy with the result and everyone really liked it. Another happy customer, just two more to cater for in the next week.

P.S. I apologise for the rubbish picture, I was rushing before I took it to work.

Dinner in a flash Tue, 20 May 2008 20:20:03 +0000 Sarah Bell Spinach, feta and olive tart

I sometimes struggle to think of something quick, cheap and yet satisfying for an evening meal during the week. This recipe, although I use ‘recipe’ in the broadest sense of the word since it’s more of an assembly with little effort, definitely fits the bill.

I had a block of puff pastry in the freezer so I dug it out of the deep freeze, let it defrost and rolled it into a centimeter thick rectangle. I then gently carved an indent about an inch in from the edge and gave the pastry a brush over with a beaten egg. I layered a couple of handfuls of spinach over the base then topped with sliced red onions, pitted black olives and crumbled feta, then seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. The pastry was cooked in a 200 degree centigrade oven for about fifteen to twenty minutes, or when puffed up and golden brown. Cut into generous slices and serve with a lightly dressed green salad.

This is so versatile as you can put pretty much anything onto the puff pastry, like butternut squash, morels, toasted walnuts and goats cheese or tomatoes, basil, mozarella and pine nuts. Get creative and enjoy.

Tropical temperatures Wed, 07 May 2008 19:03:36 +0000 Sarah Bell Mango, rum and toasted coconut meringue

Well not really tropical, but it has been really warm here all of a sudden so, having remembered that I had loads of egg whites in the freezer, I decided to do a tropical tasting pavlova. I tend to use this recipe from the BBC food web site and it works really well, giving a nice marshmallowy meringue. 

After making the meringue and allowing to cool, toast a handful of desiccated coconut in a dry frying pan and leave to cool. Take 250g of mascarpone and the same of yoghurt and put into a bowl. It doesn’t matter what yoghurt, but nothing too thick as the mascarpone is very thick. Add the zest of a lime a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar and about 50ml of dark rum (or malibu would also be nice to give an extra coconut flavour) and mix well. Spread the mixture evenly all over the meringue and top with 1 ripe mango cut into chunks and finally the toasted coconut. Then sit out in the sun with a fork and a large wedge of meringue on your plate.

Salt, Chilli and pepper squid Tue, 06 May 2008 20:09:23 +0000 Sarah Bell Salt, chilli and pepper squid salad

I have had rather a productive day for a bank holiday, when generally everyone lazes around relishing the fact that it’s another day off the full working week (although I was at work on Sunday so it doesn’t really count for me). I did sleep in just a little but I struggle to get up when it is really humid. It’s been about 20 degrees centigrade here today, which is a big change from just a few weeks ago when we had snow and I don’t think my body has had time to adjust.

First off was a quick trip to the garden centre to try and get my garden sorted for summer. I bought some strawberry plants and some seeds to sow peppers, tomatoes and lettuce and some shrubs for the front garden. I have been a bit lax with the garden this year and it was slowly beginning to look like a poster advertisement for Day of the Triphids. I also had time to squeeze in making a pavlova, which I will post about later. I’m now rewarding my efforts with a glass of wine but sadly it will be my last before my 10k run next Sunday.

I have seen frozen squid in the supermarket on several occasions and since I can’t get any fresh I thought I’d buy some. They were prepared baby squid and I decided they would be very nice pan fried for dinner and served on salad. 



Around seven prepared baby squid

I bag of salad leaves, eg rocket, spinach, watercress

A handful of black olives, pitted

A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

olive oil

1 tsp of dried chilli flakes

Half a small clove of garlic, crushed

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tsp rock salt

3 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp vinegar 

4 tbsp plain flour


Prepare the salad first by assembling the salad leaves, tomatoes, and olives in a bowl. Make the dressing by putting the garlic, vinegar, soy sauce and freshly ground black pepper into a glass. Add the oils and whisk to combine, set aside. Cut the squid into rings, leaving the tentacles whole and pat them dry. Heat a couple of tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Mix the flour together with the chilli flakes, salt and pepper and coat the squid with it. Drop the squid into the very hot pan and move it around to get the squid evenly coloured, this should take about four or five minutes and no longer as the squid will become tough. Whisk the salad dressing again to combine, drizzle over the leaves and mix to cover the leaves lightly. Divide between two plates. When the squid is cooked and golden brown take out of the pan, heap on top the leaves and serve immediately. 

Serves two.

Going a bit potty Tue, 29 Apr 2008 17:23:51 +0000 Sarah Bell Flowerpot birthday cake

I was asked to do a birthday cake for someone in work, so I set about trying to find a book that I could get some inspiration from and also some hints and tips after my disaster with the castle cake. I have a habit of looking at instructions for things then ditching them and having a go at it myself, normally because I can’t be bothered to read them. This time, though, I read through a new book and followed the advice given. The recipient likes gardening and I had seen an idea of doing an upturned flowerpot and thought I could give that a go. The book recommended baking the cake in a terra cotta pot to get the shape and then I split it, filled it with buttercream and iced it. I then had a go at making the little man following rough guides from the book and I added the other little embellishments to finish it off. I’m really pleased with the result and I got a few more requests for cakes to keep me out of trouble for a while. 

North Africa rides again Mon, 28 Apr 2008 21:29:02 +0000 Sarah Bell Harissa coated lamb

I had to use up the harissa and the preserved lemons that I bought for the couscous and having seen a few recipes with harissa smeared on various meats and poultry I plumped for a whole shoulder of lamb (bone in for more flavour). Lamb shoulder is a delicious tender cut of meat and is best slow roasted to render out the fat and let it baste the meat.

I simply trimmed off some of the fat and skin and delved my knife into the flesh to make big gashes all over. I then took about 2 tablespoons of harissa and smeared it all over the meat. The meat was put on a rack and roasted in the oven for about four hours at 150 degrees centigrade. It shouldn’t colour too much but if it does just put some tin foil on top for the last part of the cooking time. When the meat has finished cooking, take it out of the oven and leave to rest for up to thirty minutes, then carve delicious thick slices. Serve with roast potatoes and whatever vegetables you like.


Lamb leftovers with cous cous

A whole shoulder of lamb is quite a big piece of meat, even for the two of us, so with the leftovers I made couscous. Measure out whatever quantity of couscous you want and put into a bowl. Check the back of the packet of couscous to find out what quantity of liquid you need. Measure out some lamb stock (or use whatever stock you wish) and also put a few strands of saffron into it and a handful of chopped dried apricots to plump up in the liquid. Heat the stock with the apricots to boiling point, pour over the couscous and cover with cling film for about five minutes. Chop up a handful of pistachio nuts, mint, parsley and a couple of preserved lemons. Once the couscous has absorbed all the liquid and is tender, break it up with a fork and drizzle a little olive oil over or add a knob of butter, letting it melt into the grains. Finally heat up the leftover meat fully and add along with all the other chopped ingredients. A quick and easy delicious meal.


I’ve been tagged Wed, 23 Apr 2008 22:30:38 +0000 Sarah Bell I have never done one of these things before, but I feel I need to make the effort to join in with the fun so these are my ten best pictures.

Sweet corn fritters with sweet chilli sauce

Sweet corn fritters with sweet chilli sauce

Christmas spice shortbread

Christmas spiced shortbread

maple and pecan pie

Maple and pecan pie

BBQ chicken

Beautifully succulent BBQ chicken


white peaches and sparkling wine

Ripe peaches and raspberries crushed with cold, crisp sparkling wine

pudding in a glass

Crushed biscuits drizzled with Cointreau, and mascarpone with cream, orange zest and white chocolate mixed with fresh raspberries.

White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake

White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake

smoked salmon blinis with horseradish and lemon creme fraiche

smoked salmon blinis with horseradish and lemon creme fraiche

pestle and mortar crushing garlic and chillies

Mortar and pestle crushing garlic and chilli

Citrus risotto with garlic chilli prawns

Citrus risotto with garlic chilli prawns.  So there you have it.

Thank you to the Kitchen Goddess for tagging me. I am going to tag


1. Kate 

2. Eoin

3. Kitchen Vixen

4. Donal

5. Rachel

In a North African state of mind Mon, 21 Apr 2008 20:50:15 +0000 Sarah Bell Lamb koftas

We seem to be having lots of dishes recently, inspired by the north of Africa. Last week it was the other half’s turn to slave over the stove (or Barbecue in this case) as he made Grilled lamb kofta kebabs with pistachios and spicy salad wrap from Jamie Oliver’s book Jamie at home. I am very grateful to Jamie as he has very helpfully put the recipe on his website and I don’t have to type it out. The kofta has a bit of a kick to it so if you don’t like chilli so much, just add a little less. They are also quite filling but I think we found that trying to eat the amount that was to serve four between the two of us was probably what made us have to lie down afterwards. It is a really good recipe for the summer and for entertaining guests who don’t mind getting their fingers mucky. A cooling yoghurty dessert for afterwards should ease the burn.

Lamb kofta kebabs

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Pizza Perfect Sun, 13 Apr 2008 18:01:09 +0000 Sarah Bell Pancetta, spinach and pinenut pizza

Last weekend, when I had just managed to burn to a crisp a whole packet of free range organic bacon, I had to go rummaging in the fridge to see what else I could make for lunch. We had had pizza the night before and there was a little dough left, some tomato sauce,some cubed pancetta and some mozzarella. I also had some pine nuts hanging around and some spinach, so I thought that would make a very nice topping for the pizza.

I found Jamie Oliver’s recipe for the pizza dough online as I’m lazy and couldn’t be bothered to type it out again and low and behold it has the tomato sauce recipe on there too, thanks Jamie.

So simply make the dough and tomato sauce as instructed. Preheat the oven to it’s highest setting and put in what you intend to cook the pizza on so it gets very hot (we have a piece of marble that seems to work really well). Roll out a piece of dough on a floured surface quite thinly and transfer onto the preheated marble slab. Ladle on a small amount of the tomato sauce and spread over the surface evenly. Scatter the pancetta, pine nuts, and the torn mozzarella over the top, season and put into the oven for eight to ten minutes depending on how well done you want it. A couple of minutes before it is finished cooking, put on a handful of the spinach to wilt nicely on top. When done, carefully take it out of the oven and transfer onto a board, grate nutmeg over the top, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil, (I used a tiny amount of white truffle oil which worked really well) divide into slices and serve.

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Wonderful, warming vegetable couscous Mon, 07 Apr 2008 19:21:01 +0000 Sarah Bell Fantastic roast vegetable cous cous

I first had this meal cooked for me when I was in Cumbria and I knew I had to do it again. This is no ordinary couscous recipe, it’s spicy, sweet and full of flavour and texture. The list of ingredients is quite comprehensive but each ingredient adds its own dimension to the rich and full flavour and the spices can of course be used again. The recipe is from the Guardian newspaper’s column “The New Vegetarian” by Yotam Ottolenghi, give it a go.