Thursday, 31 March 2011

Coffee and Walnut Sponge
with Coffee Butter-cream filling

This coffee sponge is so light, one slice might not be enough. Which probably explains why it was polished off in one sitting, not just by me, I hasten to add.


175g self-raising flour
175g golden caster sugar
175g soft margarine
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1tbsp instant coffee, add 2tbsp hot water to dissolve and leave to cool
150g walnuts, lightly toasted in a hot pan

Pre-heat the oven to 190C / 375F / gas 5

In a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder, add the rest of the sponge ingredients and beat with a hand-held electric mixer, until light and fluffy.

Line the base of 2 x 20cm sponge cake tins with baking parchment and divide the mixture between them.

Bake in the middle shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes until springy to the touch.

Remove from the oven and leave in the tins for 5 minutes.  Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Coffee butter-cream filling

175g softened butter
1 dessert spoon instant coffee, dissolved in just a little hot water
200g icing sugar

Beat the butter and gradually add the icing sugar a bit at a time, beat in the coffee liquid.
Taste the icing, if it is still very buttery add more icing sugar.

Spread 2/3 of the filling over 1 half of the sponge and sprinkle on the chopped walnuts evenly.

Place the other half of the sponge on top and spread (or pipe) the remainder of the butter cream on top decorate with pieces of walnut.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Rhubarb Pie and all you wanted to know about rhubarb

Rhubarb Pie

For the pastry

300g plain flour
25g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter
Cold water

Seive the flour, icing sugar and salt into a large bowl.  Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour mixture.  Using your fingertips, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add enough cold water to make a firm dough.  Wrap the dough in clingfilm and rest it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

For the filling

1 kg rhubarb, trimmed and chopped
Juice and zest of 1 orange
150g granulated sugar

Put the rhubarb, sugar, orange juice and zest into a saucepan, heat gently to release the juices then simmer for 5 minutes until tender.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the pastry, reserve 1/4 of the dough for the lid and line a 20cm flan tin with the remaining pastry.  Put in the filling and place the lid over the top, press the edges to seal then using a knife cut a couple of slits in the middle to let the steam escape.  Brush the top of the pie with a little milk and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with custard or double cream, or for a treat serve with custard and double cream.

Many thanks  to  for the 'all you need to know about rhubarb' info.

The outlandishly coloured vegetable that thinks it's a fruit. Rhubarb makes deliciously comforting puddings but its sharpness works extremely well with meat and oily fish dishes.

Forced rhubarb (grown in the dark) has yellowish leaves and usually appears in January. The field-grown variety replaces it around April and is less tender but often more flavourful.


Rhubarb was used as a medicine in ancient China. It was brought to Europe by Marco Polo and has been eaten as a food since the eighteenth century.


Rhubarb is a member of the family Polygonaceae and is related to sorrel. It grows best in cool climates and the effect of forcing was discovered by accident at the Chelsea Physic Garden early in the 19th century.


Rhubarb is a good source of fibre and contains moderate levels of vitamin C and calcium. Studies have linked the fibre from rhubarb in the diet with reduced cholesterol levels.


Choose crisp, firm, plump stalks with good colour.
Kept in the fridge, fresh rhubarb will stay in reasonable condition for 1-2 weeks. Raw and cooked rhubarb freeze well.
Wash and trim both ends of the stalks, and discard the poisonous leaves. Rhubarb, in particular the later field-grown variety, is very tart and requires considerable sweetening. As with other relatively acidic foods it is recommended that it is not cooked using aluminium pots.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Thai Chicken and Rice Stir-Fry

Shop bought stir-fry sauce is a good store cupboard ingredient for those times when you need to eat in a hurry, but if you have the right ingredients it's well worth making your own.

Nowadays it's easy to find all the fresh ingredients for a Thai stir-fry sauce in good supermarkets and if you have a food processor it takes only a few minutes to blend them to a paste.  You can also control the heat and spice according to your tastes.

I used 1 red and 1 green chilli (seeds in) so it was quite hot, for something a bit milder use the green chilli only.

Give it a try you will be surprised how easy and delicious it is.

Feeds up to 4 people

For the paste

2" piece of root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 stalks lemongrass, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, trimmed
1 red chilli
1 green chilli
Small bunch of fresh coriander, stalks and leaves, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
Juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
Blend all the paste ingredients until smooth.

For the stir fry use 1 cup cooked basmati rice, 3 chicken breasts cut into chunks and what ever vegetables you have, cut into strips and slices.  I used red peppers, mushrooms and asparagus. 

Add 1 tbsp rape seed oil to a heated wok and add the paste, cook, stirring continuously for 2-3 minutes then add the chicken and stir fry for around 4 minutes, throw in the vegetables and continue to fry until the vegetables are just tender.  Finally stir in 1 cup cooked basmati rice and warm through.  Check the seasoning.

Serve immediately.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Three Cheese and Onion Flan

This flan with it's crisp pastry and creamy cheesy filling, is great for lunch with some home-made coleslaw.  For the coleslaw try 2/3 mayonnaise 1/3 natural yoghurt and the finely grated zest of 1 lemon mixed into shredded white cabbage, grated carrot and a little red onion, finely chopped. 

For the pastry

6oz plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 oz butter
1 1/2 oz white cooking fat
Very cold water

          For the filling

3 oz cheddar cheese, grated
3 oz gruyere, grated
2 oz parmesan, grated
2 tsp English mustard
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
5 eggs, lightly beaten
3½fl oz milk
7fl oz double cream
Salt and freshly milled pepper

To make the pastry, sift the flour together with a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Rub in the butter and fat until you have a soft breadcrumb texture. Add enough cold water to make the mixture come together to form a firm dough and then rest it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a light floured surface and line a 22cm/8½inch well-buttered flan dish. Don't cut off the edges of the pastry yet. Chill again.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

Remove the pastry case from the fridge and prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork. Place on a baking tray and bake blind for 20 minutes. Brush the pastry base with a little of the egg mixture and return to the oven for another five minutes.

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.
Mix the 3 cheeses together then sprinkle into the pastry base, leaving a little to sprinkle over the top, then add the sliced onion. 

Combine the eggs with the milk, mustard and cream in a bowl and season well. Pour over the  cheese. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set. Remove from the oven  and set aside for 5 minutes to allow to set further.

Trim the pastry edges.
Serve warm with home-made coleslaw

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Teatime Treats

Whether it's an afternoon tea or teatime treat, something sweet and delicious is always welcome.

I had many mouths to feed but you don't have to make all three at once.

The peanut butter cookies can be stored in an airtight container, the Caramel shortbread can be frozen, but the banoffee biscuits should really be eaten on the day they are made.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Chocolate Caramel Shortbread
Banoffee Biscuits

For the peanut butter cookies
(adapted from a Paul Rankin recipe

8 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
1 egg yolk
50g butter, softened
icing sugar, for dusting

Line a baking tray with parchment paper

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

Place all the ingredients (except the icing sugar) in a large bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon.  Bring the mixture together using your hands and form into walnut sized pieces.

Place the balls of mixture on the baking tray and flatten slightly with the prong of a fork.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until light golden.

Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and when they are cold dust with icing sugar.

For the chocolate caramel shortbread

Line a baking tray with parchment paper

Pre-heat the oven to 150C

150g butter, softened
75g golden caster sugar
75g fine semolina
150g plain flour

1 tin ready made caramel

250g milk chocolate

Beat together the butter and sugar, mix together the flour and semolina and stir into the butter mix a little at a time.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll to around 1/2cm thick.  Cut into 5cm rounds.  Place on the baking tray and cook for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Put 1 tsp caramel on each biscuit and spread to cover.

Break up the chocolate and melt it in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.  Cool slightly for about 2 minutes then spoon the chocolate over the biscuits.  Cool completely.

Banoffee Biscuits

Shortbread biscuit recipe as above.  Cut with a 6cm round cutter.
2 bananas thinly sliced
250ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks
Grated chocolate to decorate
Caramel leftover from caramel shortbread, 1 tsp per biscuit

Monday, 14 March 2011

Lamb Meatballs

"Meatballs for Sunday dinner" was the cry, "can we still have Yorkshire pudding".  As it turned out the Yorkshire pudding was great with meatballs and I will now be expected to accompany every meatball dish with them though I am not sure about spaghetti, meatballs and Yorkshire pudding, but you never know.  I also served roast potato slices and roast carrots.


500g lean minced lamb
1 large onion, finely chopped and fried gently  in a little oil until soft
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp rosemary leaves,
2 slices seeded bread, crumbed
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Freshly milled black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp flour
150 ml red wine
1 tbsp balsalmic vinegar
150 ml lamb or chicken stock
1 tbsp redcurrant jelly

In a large bowl, mix together the minced lamb, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, rosemary and seasoning then bind it all together with the egg.  Form the mixture into small balls and toss them in the flour to coat.

Heat the oil in a frying or saute pan, over a medium heat, add the meatballs and fry for 3-4 minutes each side until golden.

Add the red wine, balsamic vinegar and stock and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is thickened.  Stir in the redcurrant jelly.  Test the seasoning and add more if needed.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Skewered Chicken with Chermoula Sauce

Chermoula, a blend of North African spices, is the ideal accompaniment for chicken.  This sauce is very quick and easy to make.  Its also a great marinade for skewered lamb or grilled lamb chops.

Serve with cous-cous or quinoa with chopped, dried apricots, finely chopped mint and chopped almonds.

For the Sauce

1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp tomato puree
2 tbsp olive oil

Roast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a frying pan for a couple of minutes until fragrant then grind them with a pestle and mortar.

Place the crushed spices and the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil in a blender and blend until smooth.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil with blender running. Chermoula can be stored in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

For the chicken skewers

500g chicken breast cut into pieces and threaded onto skewers.

Brush the chicken skewers with some of the sauce then grill for 5 minutes, turning frequently until the meat is slightly charred and cooked through

Monday, 7 March 2011

Seafood Chilli Noodles

Noodles are such a versatile ingredient.  Stir fry's can be simple and tasty with just fresh vegetables, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and lemon juice then, with the addition of noodles you have a nutricious, tasty and filling meal.

This noodle dish is quite special, it has an array of fresh seafood, (squid, mussels, prawns,and crab meat from the claws) chilli, garlic, red pepper, fresh ginger, honey and lemon juice.


250g  mixed seafood
2 tbsp cooked crab claw meat
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 red pepper, cut into thin slices
2" fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp runny honey
cooked noodles for 4 people
oil for frying

Heat the oil in a wok.  Add the chilli, ginger, garlic and red pepper and stir fry for 2 minutes.  Add the mixed seafood (not the crab meat) and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

Toss in the cooked noodles and crab meat until heated through then add the honey and lemon juice and mix thoroughly.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Lemon Chicken Gougons with Lemon Dip

As you probably know, chicken is one of my favourite ingredients (see my posting titled, chicken, chicken and more chicken) and chicken gougons are a definite hit in our house.  They can be cooked for a snack, accompanied by dips or for dinner with salad and steamed potatoes, stuffed into sandwiches or pitta bread and eaten cold with coleslaw salad on a picnic.  For young children they are much healthier than shop bought chicken nuggets.

You can change the flavour of the breadcumbs by using different fresh herbs or spices.  Add a couple of tsp curry powder and some chilli to white breadcrumbs and serve the gougons with a mango chutney dip.


700g chicken breast fillets
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
25g parmesan cheese, finely grated
3 slices brown seeded bread, made into crumbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Rape seed oil for shallow frying
1 small bunch chives, finely chopped

Place the breadcrumbs, parmesan, lemon zest, chives and seasoning in a bowl and mix together.

In another bowl lighty beat the eggs.

Dip each chicken breast fillet first into the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture, when coated lay them on a flat plate until ready to cook.

Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan over a medium heat.  Cook the chicken gougons for 5 minutes each side, in batches and don't overcrowd the pan.  Keep the cooked ones warm in the oven until the rest are ready.

For the dip

Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
Black pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients for the dip together and serve in a small bowl.  Left-over lemon can be cut in small wedges and served with the chicken.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Thai Coconut Soup

If you like Thai food you will love this soup.  It tastes fresh and tangy and the coriander makes it very fragrant  If you prefer it hot and spicy add 1 more chilli.  I used 1 red chilli with seeds and found it to be just right for me.


2" fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tsp lemongrass paste
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 small bunch coriander, finely chop the stalks and set aside the leaves for garnish
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 shallots, finely chopped
4 medium sized mushrooms, chopped
100g cooked chicken, roughly chopped
300ml chicken stock
1 x 400ml tinned coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime
A little oil for frying

Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan and add the shallots, ginger, garlic , chilli and lemongrass, stir fry gently for 2 minutes.

Add the chicken, mushrooms and chopped coriander stalks.  Cook for a further 2 minutes.

Pour over the chicken stock, lime juice and coconut milk and bring up to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, without a lid, for 15 minutes.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot in warmed bowls.

Seafood Paella

Paella is the taste of Summer for me.  As soon as the sun is out so is the paella pan. I cooked this one on the hob, using two burners but i...