Monthly Archives: November 2016

Spruced Up Christmas Spice Cake

What a Christmas gift this is!!!! Such a lovely sponge: light and gently spiced with tantalising flavours and scents so very evocative of Christmas. An absolute doddle to do, this will appear on our festive menu more than once I can assure you! Confession time: the wonderful snow-topped mountain appearance cannot be attributed to my baking skills but rather the moulding of this very special ‘Holiday Fir’ baking tin. If you can’t get hold of an exact replica, a bundt tin will do the job nicely although perhaps not quite so festive in appearance. Either way: give the cake a go – its gorgeous!

Serves around 12

What you need…

1 x baking sheet

1 x ‘Holiday Fir’ or 2.5-litre bundt tin, thoroughly buttered

225g butter, softened

300g caster sugar

6 eggs

350g plain flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

¼ teaspoon cloves, ground

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

250g plain yogurt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

A good dousing of icing-sugar for snowy mountaintops!

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4 and pop in your baking sheet.

Tip the butter and caster sugar into your food processor and whizz until pale and fluffy.

Meanwhile, use a balloon whisk to gently beat the eggs together in a jug.

Gradually pour the eggs into the mixture whilst the food processor is still whizzing, incorporating each bit before pouring in the next. Once all the eggs have been added, tip in the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda. Whizz until thoroughly mixed in. Finally, tip in the yogurt and vanilla extract and whizz again to incorporate.

Tip the mixture into your baking tin and then place in the oven on top of the hot baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Let the cake sit in its tin for 15 minutes then gently ease the edges away from the tin with your fingers. Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Find a gorgeous plate to serve your spruced up Christmas spice cake on and then dust liberally with icing sugar, humming a festive tune whilst gazing at the ‘snow’ settling on the sponge mountain tops – a lovely sight followed by a delicious taste (although it is a shame to cut into this most beautiful of things!)

Inspired by…

Nigella Lawson

How easy…

Just a whizz!

Sole Véronique

Such a lovely yet understatedly light and elegant dish that features a wonderfully decadent sauce that is intensely flavoured to the point that you really want to lick the plate clean! The sauce somehow however does not overpower the fish, but complements it perfectly, as do the subtle addition of grapes that work curiously well – absolutely lovely and extremely quick and easy!

What you need…

700g Lemon or Dover Sole fillets, skinned and trimmed

Sea salt and black pepper

400ml boiling water from the kettle

1 fish stockpot (I use Knorr)

100ml dry white wine

300ml double cream

1 egg yolk

40 seedless white grapes, halved

What to do…

In a jug, dissolve your fish stockpot into the hot water, using a balloon whisk to ease the process.

Season the fish and roll the fillets up quite tightly (this gives them a great texture as they can be quite thin). Put them into a wide saucepan, pour over the hot stock and wine. Pop on the lid and poach the fillets for 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fish from the liquid and transfer into a warmed baking dish. Cover with foil and set aside.

Returning to your fishy stock, turn the heat up to high and boil without the lid until the liquid has reduced to just 5 tablespoons (it is this process that increases the intensity of flavour). This can take 10-15 minutes – just wander off to do other things, but keep checking.

Add 1 tablespoon of the double cream to the egg yolk and set aside.

Remove the fishy stock from the heat and gently pour in the remaining cream, stirring as you do so. Return to the heat and again reduce the liquid – to about two thirds of the original volume – and until is has thickened to coat the back of a spoon.

Preheat your grill to high.

Mix the egg yolk and tablespoon of cream in a bain-marie (heatproof bowl in a steamer over a pan of simmering water) and use your balloon whisk again to beat until the mixture is frothy and thickened.

Pour the egg mixture into the sauce, stir in and then add the grapes.

Pour the sauce over the fish fillets and pop under the grill, cooking until the sauce glazes slightly – maybe 3 minutes.

Serve with a green vegetable (we had broccoli that had been boiled and then mixed in with hot olive oil, chopped garlic and chopped anchovies – the whole dish was absolutely gorgeous and the rich intensity of the sauce is truly a wonderful thing!

Inspired by…

The book, ‘Who put the Beef in Wellington’, the author of which borrowed the recipe from Mark Sargeant, who in turn was inspired by the dish’s original creator, August Escoffier; who, in 1903 whilst leading the kitchen at the Ritz, had the foresight to name this dish after a then popular comedic opera that was the big thing in London, Véronique! The original uses vermouth rather than white wine, but I didn’t have any!

How easy…

Very easy and absolutely worth every second!

My Morning Honey, Lemon, Ginger and Cinnamon Pick Me Up

This drink, recently tweaked with the addition of cinnamon, is a lovely livener to greet the day with. The fresh lemon partnering the warmth of the ginger provides a gentle kick start and the cinnamon adds a lovely soothing aaahhhh with just a hint of Christmas going on! In combination, they make for a truly lovely start to any day! This recipe is to make up a whole pre-prepared jar that you can keep in the cupboard and dip into whenever you fancy – enjoy!

What you need…

for the cupboard mix

1 x 250g good quality honey

2cms fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 heaped teaspoons ground cinnamon

for the daily morning pick-me-up

1 x tall glass

1 thick slice fresh lemon

1 teaspoon of your honey, ginger and cinnamon mix

Boiling water from the kettle

What to do…

To keep the mixture handy in the cupboard, open your new jar of honey and mix in the ginger and cinnamon so that all the ingredients are evenly mixed. Store in a dry, cool cupboard for access whenever you need it!

Each morning, add fresh water to the kettle and boil. In your glass, chuck the lemon slice and then a rounded runny teaspoon of the honey mixture. Pour over the hot water and stir to mix everything together. Allow to cool a little and then sip and enjoy, ideally relaxing listening to the radio, absorbing the news on the TV or in the paper, or more likely, whilst you’re organising everyone else in the house!

Inspired by…

Not sure: a combination of healthy suggestions I think!

How easy…

Well, it’s not hard is it? And, such a lovely treat to start the day!







Classic Christmas Cake

Over the years, I’ve toyed with other recipes: light versions and chocolate-infused versions to name just two, but I always return to this recipe – Delia’s – and have vowed to stray no longer – why muck about when this recipe is an absolute winner?! It’s moist and quite simply luscious but of course this is only the first stage. Before it can take it’s place at the centre of the table, there will be regular feeding with alcohol and finally, it’ll get all dressed up in home-made marzipan and icing complete with rustic snowy scene – these recipes and photos will follow. In the meantime, fill your home with the fabulous smell of Christmas that only this cake can truly evoke; bring on the sleigh bells!!!!

Serves at least 12 – 16

What you need…

1 x 20cm cake tin, lightly buttered and lined with parchment paper or Bake O Glide

450g currants

175g sultanas

175g raisins

50g glacé cherries, finely chopped

50g candied peel, finely chopped

3 tablespoons brandy

225g plain flour

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon mixed spice

225g unsalted butter

225g soft brown sugar

4 large, happy eggs

50g chopped almonds

1 dessertspoon black treacle

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Grated zest of 1 orange

What to do in October/November…

The night before you want to bake your Christmas cake, tip all the dried fruit, cherries and mixed peel into a large mixing bowl, add the brandy and stir to evenly incorporate. Cover with cling film and leave overnight in a cool room.

The next day, preheat your oven to 140°c / 275°f / gas 1.

Smell your marinated fruit – wow – just wonderful. Stop mucking about and add the nuts, treacle, lemon and orange zests to the mix. Stir in and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the flour, salt and spices. Set aside.

In your food processor, whizz the butter and sugar together until light, pale and fluffy. Meanwhile, in a jug whisk together the eggs. Then, gradually pour in the eggs, a little at time, whizzing the whole time to prevent curdling. Tip into the food processor the flour mix and whizz again until thoroughly incorporated.

Turn out the contents of your food processor into the fruit and nut mix and stir together so that all the ingredients are evenly mixed together. Turn the whole lot out into your cake tin, spreading it evenly with the back of a spoon.

Cover the cake with double square of parchment paper that you’ve cut a 50p-sized hole in the centre of. Secure the parchment to the tin with string around the side.

Pop the cake into the oven and bake for 4½ hours – enjoy the smell of Christmas as it drifts through the house.

After cooking, cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool down completely.

Use a skewer to poke holes all over the cake, pushing the skewer all the way through the cake. Then ‘feed’ the cake with a couple of tablespoons of brandy.

Wrap in double parchment paper and then foil and then store in an airtight tin.

Put a note in your diary to retrieve this glorious cake every 10 – 14 days to feed with a little more brandy until the week before Christmas – how much you feed it depends on personal preference and how boozy a cake you want! This is a lovely tradition that is such a central part of the build up to Christmas – I do love it so much.

What to do a few days before Christmas…

Marzipan and icing recipes and guidelines to follow, nearer the time! Look out for the final preparations around 20th December – watch this festive space!

Inspired by…

Delia Smith

How easy…

Very easy and a lovely comforting, relaxing recipe to do…

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Canapés

We first tried these a couple of weeks ago at friends and neighbours, Chris and Suzy, who kindly invited us for lovely, leisurely Sunday evening drinks. So gorgeous were these little delights that we’ve since had them three times (in just two weeks). They go brilliantly with a glass of fizz, G&T or scrumptious white wine. The watermelon is fresh, sweet and juicy: the perfect foil for the earthy dryness of the feta and the mint provides a lovely zing at the end. All together with a little squeeze of lime, they are simply delicious! Give them a go: they’re quick, easy and just yummy!

Makes around 12 – 15 depending on how large or small you cut your chunks!

What you need…

100g water melon, chopped into chunky, small slices (I buy ready-prepared from Waitrose and just halve each one)

100g feta cheese, cut into chunks of a similar size to the water melon

A handful of mint leaves

A squeeze of fresh lime juice

A bunch of cocktail sticks

What to do…

Choose a pretty serving plate and stack these little lovelies together using a cocktail stick to pierce through each layer – watermelon on the bottom, then feta and on the top, either a couple of tiny mint leaves or a larger one folded.

Arrange on your plate and just before you want to enjoy them, give them a quick spritz of lime juice. So simple, so utterly yummy!

Inspired by…

Chris and Suzy: thank you!

How easy…

You can knock them up in seconds – no mess, no stress!

Traditional Christmas Pudding

So, traditionally I make the Christmas mincemeat, Christmas puddings (one for us and one for Brian – you know who you are) and Christmas cake in October. The small matter of a house move has meant that these festive activities are a little behind schedule but there’s still plenty of time. I make these things quite simply because I’ve never found shop-bought alternatives – across the price range – that make the grade. The recipes I adore all belong to Delia although I have tweaked them a tiny bit. If you like Christmas pudding, give this one a go – it spends a lot of time steaming but pretty much looks after itself and is consistently gorgeous!

Makes 2 puddings, each serving 4-6

What you need…

2 x 600ml pudding basins, lightly buttered

110g shredded suet

50g self-raising flour

110g white breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon ground mixed spice

A good pinch ground ginger

A good pinch ground cinnamon

A good pinch salt

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

225g soft dark brown sugar

110g sultanas

110g raisins

275g currants

25g ready-chopped mixed candied peel

25g almonds, chopped

25g walnuts, chopped

1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped

½ small carrot, peeled and grated

Grated zest of ½ large orange

Grated zest of ½ large lemon

2 happy eggs

150ml stout

2 tablespoons rum

1 tablespoon black treacle

What to do in October/November…

Begin the day before you want to steam the pudding. In a large mixing bowl, tip the suet, flour, breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Mix together very thoroughly. Then add the dried fruit, mixed peel, nuts, apple, carrot and the grated orange and lemon zests, stirring thoroughly with the addition of each ingredient.

In a jug, stir together the stout and rum before mixing in the black treacle and eggs. Pour into the other ingredients and then mix the whole lot together.

It is Delia’s recommendation and a tradition that we follow religiously, to now gather the family around and for everyone to take turns giving the mixture a stir and then making a wish. Given modern times, this physical activity now also involves Facetime or Skype to ensure that no one misses out, even if they are only ‘virtually’ stirring!!!!

Cling film the bowl and leave somewhere cool over night.

The next day, pack the mixture tightly into your basins. Cover both with a double layer of parchment paper and then a double layer of foil, creating a pleat in both and securing around the bowl with string.

Place the puddings in a steamer over a saucepan of simmering water, pop on the lid and steam for 8 hours, checking the water level every now and then to see if it needs topping up with boiling water from the kettle.

Remove from the heat when the 8 hours are up, remove the parchment paper and foil, wipe the exterior of the bowl clean and tie on fresh parchment and foil. Store somewhere cool and dry.

That’s it! You’re ready for Christmas Day – just need the turkey and the sprouts!!!

What to do on Christmas Day…

Decide what time you want to indulge in your Christmas pudding and then place the pudding (s) in a steamer over a saucepan of simmering water, pop on the lid and steam for 2¼ hours, again checking the water level every now and then. Don’t stress about the exact timing. I often just switch the heat off and remove the steamer from the pan – the pudding stays hot for ages.

Remove the parchment paper and foil and pop your pudding onto a pretty serving plate. Place a sprig of holly on the top. Heat a ladleful of brandy over a direct heat and, as soon as it’s hot, ask someone else to set light to it. Ladle the gently flaming brandy over your pudding amid gasps of delight and festively fuelled cheering. Enjoy with rum sauce, double cream or custard – savour the very essence of Christmas before retiring to an extremely comfortable sofa for some gentle snoozing or manic game playing, depending on your household!!!

Inspired by…

Delia Smith

How easy…

It’s not hard at all but…gathering and preparing all the ingredients takes some time and you do have to commit to staying in all day (or staying up late) to accommodate the 8-hour steaming but a little organisation is all that’s required and it’s worth it!


Mayan Chocolate Pots & Tequila-Glazed Orange Madeleines

Ooooh, these little chocolate pots are really va va voom! The rich dark chocolate has a little more than a hint of warmth provided by allspice, cinnamon and cayenne: hidden depths that add to the pleasure of delving into these lovely little pots of naughtiness. And then, the Madeleines: their elegant appearance and light, delicate flavour are enhanced by a gentle orange flavour and then the party arrives with the distinctive kick of tequila (in the icing – a new one on me!) A really lovely and different pud that’s dead easy to knock up and can be prepared in advance!

Serves 6

What you need…

200g 70%+ dark chocolate, chunked

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Pinch of sea salt

6 happy eggs, separated, plus a further 2 egg whites

Pinch of cream of tartar

40g golden caster sugar

A handful of slighty crushed pistachios or cocoa nibs

for the Madeleines

1 x Madeleine tin, lightly buttered and dusted with flour

100g plain flour

100g caster sugar

100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 eggs

Dash of vanilla extract

Zest of 2 oranges, finely grated

1 tablespoon orange juice

Pinch of sea salt

25g icing sugar

10ml aged Tequila

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 170°c / 325°f / gas 3.

Starting with the chocolate pots, place the chocolate, spices and salt into a heatproof bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water over a low heat. Gently melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, use a handheld electric whisk to beat the egg yolks until thick and creamy. Then, tip into the melted chocolate and beat to thoroughly incorporate. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking, gradually adding the sugar, one spoonful at a time, until soft peaks form.

Using a metal spoon, add one third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and beat like mad to loosen. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined, with no white streaks. Divide evenly between 6 serving bowls, glasses or in my case, coffee cups. Cover with cling film and pop into the fridge for at least 3 hours.

For the Madeleines, tip the flour and sugar into your food processor and whizz to mix together. Pour in the melted butter, eggs, vanilla, orange zest and juice plus the salt.

Put a heaped tablespoon of batter into each of the moulds in the Madeleine tin and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, mix together the icing sugar with the tequila and then, when the Madeleines are cool, dip them into the boozy sugar and leave to cool and set on a wire rack, scallop-side up.

Top the chocolate pots with pistachios or cocoa nibs, if using and maybe a little sea salt. Serve to the delight of your fellow diners with a couple of Madeleines each – gorgeously naughty – enjoy!

Inspired by…

Good Things magazine

How easy…

Really easy and the joy of it is that this dessert can be prepared in advance – the Madeleines store nicely in an airtight tin and the chocolate pots will keep in the fridge for a couple of days – result!




Originating from Northern England, particularly in Yorkshire and Lancashire, Parkin is traditionally eaten on Guy Fawkes Night but is also enjoyed throughout the Winter months, apparently. There are loads of different recipes and many of them – unlike this one – contain black treacle. Using 5th November as an excuse to bake a cake I’d never tried before, I decided to give it a go and lordy, lordy, it’s bloody lovely!

I took it out of the oven and thought, ‘That’s a damned fine looking cake and also it’s huge!” It had risen in the oven whilst filling the kitchen with a glorious sweet smell of golden syrup and ginger. And then the taste: the sponge is really very light and delicately infused with its lovely flavours and yet it has a sticky moistness: quite unlike anything I’ve ever tried and extremely good. I ate rather a lot to ensure that I could properly describe it to you but then enjoyed the added bonus that Parkin increases its moist stickiness whilst in the tin over a couple of days – just delectable! Have had to promise Connagh that this recipe will be on regular repeat!!!!

Makes around 50 bite-sized cheeky little poppables!

What you need…

1 x 20cm cake tin, lightly buttered and lined with parchment paper

225g self-raising flour

115g caster sugar

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

115g golden syrup

55g butter

1 happy egg

200ml milk

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 150°c / 300°f / gas 4.

Tip the flour, sugar, ginger and bicarbonate of soda into your food processor and whizz to mix together.

In a small saucepan, gently heat the syrup and butter, until melted.

Beat the egg into the milk.

With your processor still whizzing on slow, gradually pour in the syrup/butter mixture until thoroughly combined. Then do the same with the egg/milk mixture and combine until smooth.

Pour into the cake tin and pop into oven to bake for 1 hour.

Cool in the tin. Once cool, turn out and cut up into cheeky little cubes that pop easily into the mouth: poppables!!!

Inspired by…

One of Yorkshire’s finest, the butter-mad James Martin

How easy…





‘First Birthday’ Victoria Sandwich

I know: a classic and let’s face it – it’s not difficult! But this was made today as I realised that 7th November marks the first birthday of the official launch of my little foodie blog! 365 days and 195 recipes later…what’s a girl gonna do? Celebrate with cake!!!! Light as can be and quite simply delicious!

Serves 8 (or just 2 of us!)

What you need…

2 x 20cm sandwich tins, lightly buttered and lined with parchment paper/baking liner

225g unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened

225g caster sugar

4 happy eggs, lightly beaten

225g self raising flour

Icing sugar for dusting

for the filling

4 tablespoons raspberry jam

1 tablespoon caster sugar

200ml double cream

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Tip the butter and caster sugar into your food processor and whizz until the mixture is pale and fluffy – the paler, the better: it means that there’s more air in it and that the cake will be lighter.

Gradually pour in the eggs, whizzing the whole time and making sure that each time you pour a little in, it is fully incorporated before you pour in the next bit.

Tip in the flour and whizz again until evenly mixed together.

Pour the mixture into your two prepared cake tins, trying to get the same amount in each.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until lightly golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Cool in their tins for 10 minutes and then turn out onto cooling racks to cool down completely.

Put one sponge, top side down, on your serving plate or cake stand. Use a palette knife to spread the jam generously and evenly across the surface.

Tip the 1 tablespoon of caster sugar into a small mixing bowl with the cream and use an electric handheld whisk to beat the cream into stiff peaks. Either spread or pipe the cream on top of the jam. Gently place the remaining sponge – top side up – on top and then dust with icing sugar.

Cut and serve generous portions with a lovely cup of tea or a glass of fizz, depending on your mood!


Inspired by…

Tradition. Any excuse to make a cake. First birthday for my foodie blog. And Delicious magazine!

How easy…

A really quick, easy cake that can be made in a flash with ingredients that you’re likely to have in the kitchen already.