31 Oct 2007


I think it's a while now since I posted something that can be cooked quickly. Well I'm making up for it now with this pasta dish that can be rustled up in about 20 minutes.
If only pasta will do, time is short, you need to feed the children plus yourselves with something that is nutritious, filling and colourful then this ticks all of the boxes.
In an ideal world you would need warm sunshine, colourful garden, table and chairs and eat this outside in a large pasta bowl - but Autumn has arrived. This recipe is guaranteed to brighten up a grey day and the good thing is you haven't had to slave over a hot stove!

This is a slightly adapted recipe:


ISBN 009186366 - Page 291

Serves: 4

400g dried pasta, such as orecchiette or shells, salt and pepper, 45ml olive oil, 2tbsp pine nuts (obviously omit this for very small children), 450g very ripe cherry tomatoes, different coloured ones would be good(halved), 75g spinach or rocket leaves, 50g Parmesan cheese, freshly pared (to serve).

1. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente.
2. A few minutes before the pasta will be ready, heat 2 tbsp oil in a large saucepan. Add the pine nuts and cook for 1-2 minutes until golden. Add the tomatoes and cook for barely 1 minute until only just heated through, not disintegrated. (Although I cook mine until they start to break down a little).
3. Save a cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta thoroughly and toss with the remaining olive oil. Add the pasta to the tomatoes, then add the rocket. Carefully stir to mix and heat through. If the pan ingredients seem a little dry add some of the pasta water. Season generously with salt and pepper. Serve immediately topped with plenty of Parmesan shavings.

28 Oct 2007


Andrew over at SpittoonExtra is hosting
'Waiter There's Something...In My Layered Cake'. All of the 'Waiter' roundups have made wonderful reading, not forgetting the drooling over the photographs.
One of my all time favourite cakes is the Iced Lemon Curd Layer Cake by the trusted Delia Smith - she certainly knows how to bake a good cake and I've enjoyed cooking and eating many of her cakes in the past.

I've got her original Book of Cakes, a paperback, and its literally falling to pieces. Now, that's the sign of a good book!
Perhaps you might think this cake is more suited to Easter time? Well sorry, this is a cake to lift the spirits at any time of the year, perhaps not Christmas though!
To quote Delia 'You couldn't get a more lemony recipe than this; layers of lemon-flavoured sponge, filled with home-made lemon curd and then a lemon icing for the finishing touch. Its wonderful'.
I couldn't have described this cake any better.
If you pop over to her website you will be able to see the recipe.
The only thing I altered was that I made double the quantity of icing for the top of the cake. The quantity given on the original recipe is a little sparse for me.

22 Oct 2007

Thomas the Tank Engine Birthday Cake

I'm having a Thomas birthday cake, aren't I?" said my 2 year old son.  "Yes, of course you are" I said. The pressure and the panic was on.

My initial idea was to do a round cake and then draw a track on the top and get a model Thomas to sit on the track. I went to my local specialist cake decorating shop to see if she had a model Thomas - nothing like that. She did, however, offer me a Thomas shaped cake tin. She explained how I could then cover the cake in fondant and make the Thomas out of fondant and black painting.

I decided to go for it. Did I succeed? Look at the picture and make your own judgement. Personally I'm proud of  this birthday cake. The most nail-biting moment was the unveiling of the cake to my son.
"Wow" he smiled, "I've got a Thomas cake for my birthday."
I did it.

18 Oct 2007


Blackberries from the hedgerows and Bramley apples kindly given to me were the stars of this tart.
Instead of making the usual blackberry and apple crumble I decided upon this recipe from the Woman&Home website.
If you haven't yet discovered their food section you are in for a nice surprise, all of the recipes I've tried are delicious.
You start this tart by making a shortcrust pastry base. A sweet shortcrust is suggested in the recipe, but I made a plain one because the crumble is quite sweet.
The apples and blackberries are cooked until a thick compote is achieved. This is then put onto the cooked pastry base and topped with crumble that has been scented with cinnamon.
Now, I have to confess, this tart was heaven.

Serves: 8 to 10 people.

You will need: A 26cm flan tin with a removable base.

For the pastry case: 200g plain flour, 50g butter, 50g lard, 3 tablespoons of cold water.

For the filling: 800g (about 3 large) Bramley apples, 300g blackberries (fresh or frozen), 50g caster sugar.

For the crumble topping: 150g plain flour, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, 100g butter - chilled, 75g caster sugar.

To serve: clotted or softly whipped cream.

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°CFan/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
2. Roll out the pastry and use to line the flan tin. Chill for 30 minutes.
3. Line the pastry case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes until pale golden. Remove the beans, then return the tart to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to dry the base.
4. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 180°C/160°CFan/350°F/Gas 4.
5. For the filling, peel, core and slice the apples. Place in a saucepan with the blackberries and sugar. Cook over a moderate heat until soft and most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently to prevent the apples from sticking.
6. To make the crumble topping, sift the flour and ground cinnamon into a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour. Stir in the caster sugar.
7. To assemble the tart, place the apple and blackberry filling in the pre-baked pastry case, spreading the mixture out evenly.
8. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top, but do not press down. Place the tart back in the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the crumble is golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving with a generous dollop of clotted or softly whipped fresh cream.

13 Oct 2007


I love bread and making my own with the help of my Panasonic breadmaker is very quick and easy. Often I just use it to make the dough and then shape the bread into rolls etc.
This particular bread is full of wonderful seeds without there being too much crunch.
I find the flour you buy can make a huge difference to the finished loaf and the white strong flour I use is Waitrose very strong Canadian flour and another favourite is Doves Farm organic mixed grain malthouse bread flour.
Obviously, if you are a seasoned breadmaker then perhaps a breadmaking machine may not be for you.


ISBN 1843091844 - Page 90

Makes: 1 loaf

280ml water, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 400g white bread flour, 50g millet flour, 50g wholemeal bread flour (I used 100g mixed grain bread flour instead of the millet flour and the wholemeal flour), 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon easy-blend dried yeast, 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, 1½ tablespoons linseeds, 1½ tablespoons sesame seeds - lightly toasted.

For the Topping: 1 tablespoon milk, 2 tablespoons golden linseeds.
1. Put the yeast into the bread pan. Add the flours, sugar, salt, extra virgin olive oil and water. Or place the ingredients into the bread pan in the order specified for your particular bread machine.
2. Set the bread machine to the raisin dough setting. press start. Add the seeds when the machine beeps to add the extra ingredients or during the last 5 minutes of kneading.
3. When the dough cycle has finished, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knock back gently.
4. Lightly oil a baking sheet (a baking sheet liner placed on the baking sheet is best because the bread tends to stick).
5. Shape the dough into a round flat loaf. Make a hole in the centre with your finger. Gradually enlarge the cavity, turning the dough, until you have a ring.
6. Place the ring onto the baking sheet. Cover it with lightly oiled greaseproof paper and leave it to rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Brush the top of the bread with milk and sprinkle it with the golden linseeds. Make slashes around the loaf, radiating outwards.
8. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden and hollow-sounding. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool.

TOP TIP: Put the shaped dough on the prepared baking sheet into the oven. Turn the oven temperature to 50°C and put the timer on for 3 minutes (no longer), turn the oven off. Leave the dough in the oven until doubled in size and then cook as above.

8 Oct 2007


The theme for Sugar High Friday hosted by Andrew over at Spittoon Extra is Drunken Apples. My vine fruits and apples were very happy to have a couple of tablespoons of Calvados poured over them! I was even happier to be the lucky one to get to eat them.
Waitrose October Recipe cards were the inspiration for this event.
On the recipe card it says to use wholesome vine fruit mix, but I had some Waitrose luxury dried fruit left and so used this instead. The 'Wholesome' area in Waitrose is fairly new and the vine fruit mix they suggest looked wonderful, as indeed did all the other goodies on the shelf.
This recipe would be appropriate for the Christmas season, in fact, it felt that I was making and eating it a few weeks too early!

Serves: 4

You will need: A large pot of pouring cream to drizzle over the cases.
125g Waitrose Wholesome Vine Fruit Mix, 2 tablespoons of brandy or Calvados, half a 375g pack chilled ready rolled puff pastry, 25g flaked almonds, 2 Cox's apples, 25g butter, 2 tablespoons dark muscovado sugar, ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 2 tablespoons double cream.

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F/Gas 6. Place the dried fruit in a bowl, add the brandy or Calvados and set aside.
2. Unroll the pastry and cut into 4 rectangles. Put on a baking sheet then score a line 1cm in from the edges of each piece, without pressing all the way through. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove the top layer of loose pastry to make a lid, leaving some on the base. Place on the side of the baking sheet and cook for a further 10 minutes until golden.
3. In a small frying pan, dry-fry the almonds for about a minute until golden, remove from the pan and reserve.
4. Cut the apples into quarters, discard the cores, then thinly slice. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the apple and sprinkle with the sugar and nutmeg. Saute for 4-5 minutes until golden on both sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apple to a plate.
5. Return the pan to the heat and add the mixed fruit and brandy. When syrupy, stir in the cream then spoon into the pastry cases. Top with the apples and scatter over the flaked almonds. Place the pastry lids on each case, dust with icing sugar.
6. Serve with lots of pouring cream.

4 Oct 2007


This is another recipe from one of my favourite books 'The Book of Old Tarts'. With a title such as that, it would be impossible not to fall in love with this book.
There are several sections to this book: 'Roman Origins and British Tart Baking Before 1700', 'Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Tarts' through to 'Twentieth-Century Tarts'.
With wonderful recipe titles such as A Medieval Tart of Brie, A Sixteenth-century Tart of Flowers and Gooseberry and Marshmallow Lattice Tart - who could resist. Next to each recipe there are a few snippets of history about each tart.
Sometime ago I posted a recipe on here for
'Bilberry Mucky Mouth' Tart which was a dessert made in heaven and because of past successes from this book, I just knew that I wouldn't be disappointed.
The only change I would make to this recipe is that maybe next time, instead of using single cream, I would try double cream.

THE BOOK OF OLD TARTS by Elizabeth Hodder

ISBN 0747221057 - Page 100

Serves: 6-8

225g plain shortcrust pastry. 1 tablespoon, olive oil, 15g butter, 3 leeks - washed, trimmed and thinly sliced, 225g rindless streaky bacon - finely chopped, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley, salt and freshly ground black pepper, 2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, 425ml single cream, 175g goat's cheese (Welsh, if possible), 55g walnuts - finely chopped, ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg.

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Place a baking tray in the oven to heat up.
2. Line a deep 23cm tart tin with the pastry, place on the heated baking tray and prebake blind for 15 minutes and then remove from the oven and brush with some of the beaten egg and cook for another 5 minutes.
3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan, add the leeks and fry very gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bacon and continue frying until the leek is soft and the bacon is not quite crisp, stirring occasionally. Add the parsley and season with salt and black pepper. Remove the pan from the heat.
4. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, egg yolk and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Break up the goats cheese into small pieces.
5. Put the walnuts in the base of the pre-baked pastry case. Spoon in the leek, bacon and parsley mixture, add the goat's cheese and finally pour in the cream mixture. Sprinkle the surface with the nutmeg. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the tart looks set and the cheese is nicely browned.