Delicious Lemon Drizzle Cake

I just love this cake! For two reasons: firstly it is spectacularly easy to make and secondly, because it is truly scrumptious! Not naturally a spontaneous baker, I have even taken to quickly whipping up this cake on a whim just when we fancy a little slice of something yummy with our afternoon cuppa (him: tea, me: double espresso). Try it once and it will be on your favourites list.

Serves 8

What you need…

900g/2lb loaf tin, greased and parchment paper-lined

for the cake

3 large eggs

175g self-raising flour

175g caster sugar

175g butter, softened

1½ teaspoons baking powder

Zest of 1½ lemons, finely grated

for crunchy lemon icing

100g granulated sugar

Juice of 1½ lemons

What to do…

Preheat oven to 180c / 350 F / gas 4.

Chuck all the cake ingredients into a food processor and beat together thoroughly.

Tip into the loaf tin and bake in oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown and shrinking away from the sides of the tin slightly.

Pop tin on a cooling rack and leave from 10/15 minutes until the cake is warm rather than hot.

Prick over the top of the cake with a skewer.

Mix together the sugar and lemon juice and pour over the top of the cake whilst it is still in its tin. It will look like there’s loads too much topping – keep the faith and pour the lot in. Walk away.

Come back 10/15 minutes later and the lemon drizzle topping will have largely disappeared – it’s gone into the cake (with the help of your skewering) to ensure that it is wonderfully moist.

When it’s cool rather than cold, loosen the sides away from the tin and lift out, using the paper. Dispense with the parchment paper and serve your delicious lemon drizzle cake – lovely fat slices! At this point, it is beyond delicious – light, reminiscent of being warm with a gentle but gorgeous citrusy tang that simply says, “eat more”. Wonderful!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

Spectacularly!

 

 

 

 

 

Roast Asparagus in Parma Ham Parcels

This is an ideal canapé to have with pre-dinner drinks, or perhaps to hand around as part of a canapé selection at a Christmas drinks party. These delightful little morsels are absolutely lovely, ideally accompanied by a rather pleasant glass of fizz.

Makes 10

What you need…

One flat baking tin, greased with olive oil

20 x asparagus spears, trimmed

10 slices prosciutto di parma

Sea salt and black Pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated

What to do…

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and drop the asparagus in. Cook in the boiling water for 2 minutes.

Drain and and refresh in cold water. Drain again and cool to the point that they are easy to handle.

Lay out one slice of Parma ham. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Parmesan and then cut in half lengthways.

Using one ‘half slice’ of Parma ham, place two asparagus spears at one end and roll up so the Parma ham is the wrapping around your asparagus. Place on your baking tin.

Repeat until all the asparagus spears and Parma ham have been used up.

You can now leave them in the fridge for a couple of hours, enabling you to go and get ready for your guests.

When ready, pop the baking tin in the oven preheated to 200°c / 400°f / Gas 6 for 4-5 minutes and then serve. Absolutely delightful!

Inspired by…

I can’t quite remember – lots of people seemed to have included a version of this in their cookbooks but I think that Delia Smith was the original inspiration – she uses hard cheese rather than grated.

How easy…

Really, really easy and your Roast Asparagus in Parma Ham Parcels can be prepared ahead of time – bonus!

 

 

Roast Breast of Duck with Plum and Apple Tarte Tatin

A fabulous Autumnal treat that looks and tastes so sumptuous and actually isn’t that difficult to make. Whoever you make it for will be very appreciative! It’s rich and ever so slightly decadent!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 tartlet tin, with 4 8cm holes, greased

1 9-cm cookie cutter

200g ready-made puff pastry (unless you’re on Bake Off, who has the time to make it?!)

2 apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

2 plums, stoned and roughly chopped

5 little knobs of butter

4 dessertspoons of honey

30g shallots, chopped

250ml port

500ml chicken/game stock (made from a stock pot and water)

4 duck breasts, similarly sized

225g spinach

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

Score the skin on the duck breasts in a crisscross pattern and season well. Put aside for the moment.

Making the jus/sauce: melt the first knob of butter in a saucepan and add the shallots, cooking for five minutes on a low heat. Add the port and stock and reduce until the sauce coats the back of the spoon – about 15 minutes. Set to one side – it doesn’t have to be boiling hot to serve but you may want to reheat just before serving to make sure it’s still runny rather than starting to set.

Making your tarte tatins: in your tartlet tin, place a knob of butter in the centre of each ‘mould’ and pour over one dessertspoon honey over each one. Mix together the apple and plums and then take a handful of the mixed fruit, piling it on top of the honey and butter.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 5mm and, using your cookie cutter, cut out four 9cm circles and place over the top of the fruit, tucking the sides in so that you have four upside down tarts. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, take a heavy frying pan, turn the hob heat up to a medium high heat and cook the duck breast, skin side down, in the dry pan for about nine minutes, then turn the breast over and cook for a further six minutes. Keep an eye on it – it can scorch quite easily (as evidenced in my photogograph!)

Towards the end of the duck cooking time, wilt the spinach in a pot with just a couple of spoonfuls of water and little salt for two minutes.

To serve, place a mound of spinach on each plate and top with one tarte tatin, removed from the tin and served fruit side up. Put the duck on the plate and drizzle the jus/sauce around the plate.

Delicious doesn’t cover it! This recipe for Roast Breast of Duck with Plum and Apple Tarte Tatin is a rich, lovely treat, ideal for dinner party. Halve the ingredients and make a sumptuous romantic dinner for two.

Tips…

You’ll have some pastry left over – you could always re-roll it and create another few fruit tatins but for use as desserts or perhaps a couple of Apple Roses (see my other recipes).

I use Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen chopped shallots – quick and saves all that crying!

Inspired by…

Julian Owen-Mold

How easy…

It’s really easy providing the duck breasts are the same size and therefore cook evenly during the same time. It’s quite smelly and the hob will be a mess at the end, but it’s worth it and surely, if you’ve done the cooking, someone else should clear up!

 

Butternut Squash Soup

This is a wonderful, warming, Autumnal soup that is so comforting but made extra special with one of my favourite additions: truffle oil! A lovely lunch on a dreary grey day, this soup is also an excellent dinner party starter and has been served up to most, if not all of our friends, all of whom love it!

Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

Glug of olive oil

1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning or sage

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

I red onion, roughly chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

2 celery sticks, trimmed and roughly chopped

Three sprigs of rosemary

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Kg butternut squash

1 litre chicken stock (I use 2 x stock pots), heated

Truffle oil to serve (my favourite is Carluccio’s Olio al Tartufo Bianco – some other brands taste too oily)

What to do…

In a large saucepan, pour in your glug of olive oil and heat on medium.

Add the Italian seasoning, garlic, onion, carrots, celery, rosemary, chilli, salt and pepper. Turn down heat to low and leave to soften for 15 minutes.

Add the butternut squash and stock, bring to the boil. Then cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the rosemary stems and then food-process the rest to produce this wonderful, thick autumnal Butternut Squash Soup.

Serve drizzled with a little truffle oil.

Tip…

I’ve taken to buying, garlic and chilli, amongst other herbs and spices, from the Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen range – they come ready chopped and so they get added to recipes via a quick shake or two, rather than being precisely measured out!

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

It really doesn’t come any easier than this! You can also make it a couple of days before you want it – keeping it in the fridge – and it freezes really well. So, quite often, I’ll double up on the ingredients, freezing half.

 

 

 

 

365 Chocolate Celebration Cake

I created this cake from a mish-mash of different recipes and having seen an image from The Clandestine Cake Club’s cookbook with Smarties toppling out of the middle of the cake. It caught my imagination! What a great way to celebrate my ‘365 images that make me smile’ project (whereby I spent a year posting a picture captured each and every day that made me happy). I decided that my version would be all chocolate but I wanted a sponge that was light and fluffy, a butter cream that was rich and to finish it off, the opulence that comes with a thick coating of shiny chocolate. This cake, made for the first time here, did not disappoint and I think it is perfect for a celebration.

I’ve used Smarties, but chocolate buttons would work equally well or, if it’s going to be demolished in one day, fresh raspberries would be delightful!

Serves 16+

What you need…

2 x 20cm / 8” cake tins (spring form or loose-bottomed ideally), greased and lined on the bottom with parchment paper.

1 deep cookie cutter (I used a 7cm-wide one but you could use a wider one if you wanted more sweets hidden in the cake).

 340g unsalted butter, room temperature

340g caster sugar

6 eggs

1 dessertspoon vanilla extract

140g milk

225g self-raising flour

85g cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

for the chocolate butter cream and Smarties surprise

 50g dark chocolate (ideally 70% cocoa) broken into pieces

100g unsalted butter, room temperature

200g icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

225g Smarties

for the decoration

150g unsalted butter, room temperature

250g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 180°c / 350° / gas 4.

Using a food processor, beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Whilst it’s still beating, add in the eggs, one at a time, ensuring that each is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract and milk and mix in.

In a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Then, add in the ingredients from the food processor and, using a balloon whisk, fold together all the ingredients until they are thoroughly blended. Divide the chocolate sponge mixture between the two cake tins.

Bake the sponges in the oven for 45 minutes until the cake is firm and an inserted skewer comes out dry.

Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the tins and then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the butter cream, made especially gorgeous by the use of the melted chocolate.

Put your chocolate into a heatproof bowl and then into a steamer over a saucepan of simmering water. Gently melt the chocolate and then set aside until it is cool enough to touch.

In a separate bowl, sieve in the icing sugar and then beat together with the butter. Add the vanilla essence and then tip in the warm chocolate. Mix together using a small balloon whisk to ensure it is evenly and thoroughly blended. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Take your cookie cutter and cut a hole in the centre of each sponge, making sure the hole is in the same place in each sponge so that they will line up once assembled. From each cutout of sponge, slice a 1cm piece across, inserting one back into the bottom sponge.

Spread the butter cream evenly across the bottom sponge. Pop on the top sponge. Using a small spatula or palette knife spread more butter cream across the ‘join’ of the two sponges (so that the edge of the cake will look neat once the chocolate decoration is poured over).

Tip the Smarties into the hole in the middle of the cake and then pop the remaining 1cm deep sponge circle on the top, thus recreating a complete top sponge.

For the decoration, put the remaining broken chocolate in a heatproof bowl in a steamer over simmering water and gently melt. Once melted, mix in the butter. Drizzle over the cake until the top and the sides are covered evenly. Allow to set.

Serve to thrilled gasps as you cut into it when the Smarties tumble out and murmurs of appreciation when they eat it!

Tips…

There will be some melted chocolate left over – dip in some strawberries – great with an espresso after the main event!

Before I drizzle over the melted chocolate, I take a double piece of parchment paper with a circle cut out of the middle which is the same size as the sponges and pop it over the sponges so it is resting on the cake stand, effectively acting as a bib! When I’d finished drizzling (and making a considerable mess) I waited for the chocolate to set and then cut the parchment bib away revealing a spotless cake stand – marvellous!

How easy…

The 365 Chocolate Celebration Cake is very easy but it takes lots of time, mainly because you have to wait for the sponges to cool. If you’re in for the day and can potter about doing other things in between each stage of the cooking and assembly, perfect!

 

 

Baked Glazed Gammon

 

For many years now, we have reserved the baked gammon for Christmas Eve. When the present-wrapping is all done and all the preparation is finished for the big day, it’s time to sit down for hot gammon sandwiches in squishy, chunky fresh bread, washed down with a glass of fizz. The aroma of this wonderful dish cooking in its final stages is something I will always associate with Christmas but we do sneak it in a couple of other times throughout the year. The spirit of Christmas should be with us all year around, after all!

Serves 8 with left overs

What you need…

1 x unsmoked gammon joint, weighing about 4 kg

1 carrot, cut in half

1 onion, cut in half at root

1 celery stick

1 bay leaf

10 peppercorns

for the glaze

8 tablespoons good quality marmalade

2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard

2 tablespoons black treacle

A handful of cloves

What to do…

Soak the gammon overnight if you’re having it for lunch or all day if you are having it in the evening. Discard the soaking water before starting.

Put the gammon in a large saucepan, cover with water and add the carrot, onion, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring to the boil, cover and then turn down the heat to a low simmer for 2¾.

Pre heat the oven to 180°c / 350f / gas 4

When the gammon is cooked, remove from the cooking water and set aside to drain.

Make the glaze by mixing all of the ingredients (except the cloves) together in a bowl.

Cut the rind off the gammon, leaving a thin layer of fat. Score the fat diagonally in a criss-cross pattern and then stud with cloves all over. Put the gammon in a roasting tin, brush/spoon over the glaze and bake for about 30 minutes until sticky and golden. The smell will make you swoon! Serve your Baked Glazed Gammon with warm gorgeous doorstep bread and salted butter. Yummy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

The easiest baked gammon recipe I have tried and soooooo delicious!

 

 

Broccoli, Anchovy and Garlic Pasta

We love pasta in our house as the number of recipes evidence! This one is a lovely, light and fresh dish with the vitamins of broccoli and the tangy edge provided by the garlic and anchovy. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese finishes it off perfectly! Really yummy!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 heads of broccoli

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

12-16 anchovy fillets, depending on your taste – I love them!

2 hot chillies, de-seeded and chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Dried pasta (see tip)

Sea Salt and black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

What to do…

Chop the broccoli into florets, halving them if they are big ones.

Take a big saucepan and bring to the boil salted water. Add the pasta and cook following the instructions on the packet (mine normally takes about 12 minutes).

Whilst the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok to a medium heat, adding the garlic, anchovies and chillis, smashing up the anchovies as they warm up. Keep the oil warm but not spitting.

Four minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, add the broccoli florets to the pasta water.

Drain the pasta and broccoli and add them to them to the other pan, tossing them in the oil. Season to taste and serve with a generous your broccoli, anchovy and garlic pasta with a sprinkling of Parmesan. Quite simply delicious!

Tip…

I tend to use gluten-free pasta, simply because it doesn’t weigh down my digestive system like the normal option. Eating pasta with gluten makes me feel uncomfortably full and also very tired at the end of the meal – capable of doing nothing but collapsing in front of the TV. Gluten-free definitely suits me better.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy….

Ever so! Great lunch or quick supper

Lemon Polenta Cake with Rosemary Syrup

My absolute favourite dessert: the sponge is soaked in sweet rosemary syrup – a perfect foil to the summer raspberries piled up in the middle and the clean, crisp Greek yogurt it’s served with. Once tried, this recipe will be with you forever!

Serves 10-12

What you need…

175g polenta

50g plain flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

5 tablespoon plain yogurt

5 tablespoon rapeseed oil plus extra for greasing

Grated rind of two lemons

2 tablespoon lemon juice

2 eggs, plus 2 egg whites

600g caster sugar

400ml water

3 heaped teaspoons dried rosemary

Fresh raspberries

Greek yogurt to serve

What to do…

Heat oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Sift polenta, flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.

Place yogurt, oil, lemon rind and juice into a jug and stir until combined.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and egg whites with 200g of the sugar for a few minutes until creamy. Beat in the yogurt mixture until smooth and then fold in the dry ingredients until just combined – don’t overmix.

Pour the mixture into a 1.2 litre/2-pint lightly oiled ring cake tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a thin skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Meanwhile, place the remaining 400g of sugar in a pan with 400ml water and the rosemary. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Leave to cool completely and then strain through a sieve.

When the cake is cooked, place on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then ease a blunt knife around the outside to separate the cake from the tin. Invert cake onto a serving plate.

When completely cool, prick all over with a thin skewer and, using a tablespoon, drizzle over half the rosemary syrup so that it completely soaks into the cake, making it lovely and moist (tip: this part can take quite a while – I do it slowly, sometimes whilst watching TV).

Pour the remaining rosemary syrup into a pretty serving jug and pop in the fridge until ready to use.

Tip raspberries into the hole in the middle and serve your lemon polenta cake with rosemary syrup with dollops of Greek yogurt and the chilled rosemary syrup. Decorate with rosemary sprigs if desired. Divine!

Inspired by…

The Top 100 Recipes from the Food & Drink Series

How easy…

Really easy – a pleasure to create and so stunning on the eye and the taste buds!

Chicken Breasts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Tarragon and Paprika Sauce

One of my favourite supper dishes to share with family and friends, it’s easy to prepare, light and really flavoursome

Serves 4

What you need…

5-6 skinless chicken breasts

8 tablespoons lemon juice

2 rounded teaspoons paprika

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped

Knob of butter

12-14 sun-dried tomatoes

300ml double cream

Salt

Chilli powder

Bunch of rocket leaves to garnish

What to do…

Put lemon juice, paprika, garlic and tarragon in a bowl, mix together.

Slice chicken and add to mixture. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes at least.

Melt butter in a large, deep frying pan/wok.

Add chicken mixture and cook gently for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, slice the sundried tomatoes in half.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from pan and set aside.

Bubble pan juices fiercely for two minutes, reducing slightly.

Remove from heat and slowly stir in the double cream.

Bring the mixture back to the boil and boil for 2-3 minutes or until it has thickened slightly.

Season with salt and chilli. Return chicken to pan and add in sundried tomatoes and warm through.

Serve chicken breasts and sun-dried tomatoes with tarragon and paprika sauce with rocket scattered over. It goes really well with some garlicky pasta on the side or garlic-fried green vegetables such as shredded cabbage and leek. Lovely!

Inspired by…

Josceline Dimbleby, The Almost Vegetarian Cookbook

How Easy…

One of the few main courses that I can produce whilst chatting to visiting friends – I normally have to focus completely on the cooking!

Dark Chocolate, Ginger and Orange Cake

This dark, unbelievably rich cake feels like a sin to eat – it’s just sooooo naughty. The other joy of it is that it is very easy to make, so spectacular from every aspect really.

Serves 12

What you need…

200g butter, softened

A little plain flour

175g soft dark brown sugar

Zest and juice of 1 orange

3 large eggs

200g self-raising flour

25g cocoa powder

1 tsp ground ginger

25g dark chocolate, grated

for the syrup

50g golden caster sugar

Juice of 1 orange

50ml water

for the decoration

75g butter

125g dark chocolate, chopped

1 tsp ground ginger

25g white chocolate

What to do…

Preheat oven to 180c / 350f / gas 4. Grease a 20cm ring tin and dust it with the plain flour.

Using a food processor or electric mixer, whisk the butter, sugar and orange zest in large bowl until the mixture is soft, creamy and lighter in colour.

Mix in the eggs, one at a time, then add in the self-raising flour, cocoa, ginger, dark chocolate and orange juice. Mix everything together until smooth. Spoon into the tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Put the sugar into a pan with the orange juice and 50ml cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes, until syrupy.

With a skewer or cocktail stick, pierce the cake all over the top, then pour over the syrup. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To decorate, melt the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl in a steamer over a saucepan of simmering water;  then mix in the butter until dissolved. Mix in the ground ginger.

Drizzle over the cake and allow to set for 10 minutes. Melt the white chocolate, also in a steamer over boiling water, then drizzle over the dark chocolate and leave to set. Your dark chocolate, ginger and orange cake is ready to take it’s place at the centre of the table!

Serve this wonderfully rich cake with a spoonful of double cream. If you’d rather a lighter, dairy-free alternative, mix together some soya natural yogurt with runny honey and a wee dram of Limoncello. Lurvvelly!!!

Inspired by…

Harrods Magazine – yes, seriously!

How easy…

Dead easy to make this spectacular cake that wouldn’t look out of place at a celebration