Thursday, 22 May 2008

Apple and Walnut Cake

In an attempt to broaden my cake horizons, I decided to make this cake. When it came out of the oven, I was a bit unconvinced, it looked a bit like one of those dry fruit cakes, a day later and its really come into its own. Hence I ate about 3 slices too many as an afternoon 'snack'.

I used pear, but only because we had lots left in the house. Obviously, apple is the natural choice.

Apple and Walnut Cake

150ml oil
200g sugar
2 eggs
350g flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 ½tsp bicarb
½ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp salt
450g apples, peeled and cut into small cubes
zest of 1 lemon
100g walnuts, chopped

Beat the oil and sugar until very thick and creamy, an electric whisk works best here. Whisk in the eggs in one at a time, fold in the flour, salt, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon. Finally add the apples and walnuts. Bake in a greased and lined loaf tin at 180°C for 50mins. Read more...

Sunday, 18 May 2008

My Favourite Cheese Sandwich

This is the ultimate Saturday afternoon snack. Well actually its a pretty good snack any time, I just always end up having it on a Saturday afternoon. This is no ordinary cheese sandwich. Its grilled cheese, and the cheese should be very strong cheddar (try Montgomery cheddar)topped with slowly cooked onions, some chopped gherkins and a little salad if you're so inclined. Amazing.

It all about the onions and gherkins, so don't be tempted to miss them out, believe me, it all works. This sandwich also benefits hugely from good quality bread. When I used to sell bread for the Born and Bread Bakery at Clapham Farmers' Market, I would come home and make this with their amazing sundried tomato sourdough. Mmmm

Serves 1
2 slices of sourdough
enough cheddar to cover one side, about 50g
1 onion, halved and cut into rings
3-4 gherkins, chopped
1 tomato cut into slices
handful salad leaves
olive oil

Cook the onions, drizzled in a little oil very slowly for about 15mins until they're completely soft. Meanwhile toast the bread under the grill on one side, turn them over and toast the other side lightly, then top one slice with the cheese and the other with a couple of slices of tomato, a drizzle of olive oil and some pepper. Grill until the cheese in molten and bubbling. Top with the salad leaves, onions and chopped gherkins. Enjoy. Read more...

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Gooey Chocolate Cake

This is actually just a baked chocolate mousse, so you could chill the mixture in individual pots (coffee cups work well) and have it as a mousse. That said, its really worth baking it in the oven. I'm not a massive of eating chocolate on its own, but it really comes into its own in baked goods. What is more satisfying that a perfectly cooked gooey chocolate brownie? Er, maybe some ice cream with it...

Cooking with chocolate is so easy and it always affords the best responses from people. There are a few rules, one only use very good quality dark chocolate, even if you don't like eating, its a must for baking, (you get the sweetness from adding sugar). Make sure you use good quality butter (english, organic if possible) and melt it very slowly. I always use a microwave, it saves the hassle of melting it in a bain marie and I've only ever burnt it once. (If you melt chocolate too quickly, it burns, seizes up and is unusable, you will know as it smells pretty bad too). All I do is melt it for a minute or so on medium, give it a stir and then repeat until the chocolate has melted. Simple.

As this cake contains no flour, it is whisked egg whites that give it lift. Whisking egg whites can be a bit of a hassle (though not impossible) without and electric whisk. In those instances, it can be useful to rope in someone else to do the whisking for you, who will benefit from the cake later on. When whisking egg whites, the key is to go slowly at first until the eggs starts to foam, then you can go quite quickly. Its also very important that there is no fat or grease on the bowl or whisk (make sure no yolk gets into the whites) as this will stop them forming peaks. To make sure, you can run a cut lemon around the bowl and whisk.

Gooey Chocolate Cake

350g dark chocolate
200g golden caster sugar
175g butter
8 large eggs, separated
1tbsp vanilla

Grease and line a springform tin. Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave. Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks and sugar until really pale and thick (an electric whisk works best here) then stir in the vanilla and melted chocolate.

Then whisk the egg whites, by whichever means, until they form stiff peaks (i.e you can hold the bowl upside down over your head and nothing falls out, I would recommend this as a testing method). Make sure you only whisk the egg whites right before baking to retain as much air as possible.

Add a dollop of egg white and stir briskly to loosen the mixture. Add the rest of the egg whites and using a large metal spoon, cut a path down the middle of the mixture with the edge of the spoon. Then gently turn half the mixture over onto the other half. Continue cutting down the middle and turning a portion over. Don't stir. The purpose of folding is to retain the air you have beaten into the whites. Be careful to only mix enough to incorporate the whites, and never use an electric mixer for this step.

Transfer the mixture to the springform tin and bake immediately at 180°C for about 30-35mins. You want the cake to be firm on top but still a little squidgy underneath. Read more...

Friday, 16 May 2008

Spaghetti Bolognese

This makes no claims to authenticity at all, besides spaghetti bolognese is hardly authentic Italian fare. This is unashamedly retro, complete with grated cheddar on top and perhaps one of those frozen garlic bread sticks on the side?

Oh yes, naturally, my version doesn't have any meat either, but I've never let that hold me back. There's a knack to using vegetarian mince, namely throw as much flavour at it as possible and you should be ok. I used Quorn mince, which probably has the best texture of the veggie minces out there, but the dried stuff you can get for about 50p is not too bad either, especially if you're using it in a lasagne where all that cheese means the mince isn't so important. If you want to be completely unorthodox, my friend always puts a can of kidney beans in with her mince too, its adds a bit more texture and also ups the health quota. I also used passata, but only because I have a bit of a thing about the chunks of tomatoes in chopped tomatoes, but I won't pass that onto you.

It goes without saying that this freezes superbly, so cook 2/3 times as much as you need and freeze in handy individual portions so you can just take one out of the freezer in the morning and have it for your tea!

Spaghetti Bolognese
Serves 3-4

2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and diced finely
2 red chillis, chopped finely
300g veggie mince
1 can kidney beans, drained
2 cans chopped tomatoes
½ glass red wine
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
2tsp bouillon powder
2 bay leaves

Fry the onion, pepper, garlic and chilli slowly until completely soft and aromatic. Add in the mince and beans, stir to completely coat in the oniony juices. Add the wine, turn up the heat and allow to bubble for a few mins, add in the rest of the ingredients and a little water if necessary. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20mins until you have a thick sauce. Season to taste and serve however you like! Read more...

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Superfood Salad

I'm not going to lie, in an attempt to eat a bit healthier, I was trying to recreate the delicious superfood salad at Leon. Anyway, writing this, I discovered there's already a recipe online!

The key is lots of lovely fresh green things, paired perfectly with feta and crunchy seeds. Oh and sprouts and quinoa, possibly the healthiest things ever, hence the 'superfood' title.

(makes enough for your lunch for several days)

1 cup quinoa
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 handful sprouts
1 handful toasted pumpkin seeds they taste sooo much better toasted)
1 brocolli, cut into small florets
½ cup frozen peas
1 avocado, sliced
250g feta
1 bunch chopped mint and parsley
½ lemon
olive oil

Add 1½ cups water to the quinoa, bring to the boil, simmer for 10mins until the water is absorbed. Meanwhile, boil the brocolli and peas for a few mins, drain and refresh under cold water. Mix all the ingredients together, except the avocado, place this on top when serving and feel virtuous. Read more...

Monday, 12 May 2008


Mmm a warm summer's day and lovely cold gazpacho. That was the idea anyway... most recipes call for chopping up kilos of fresh tomatoes, one its a hassle and two, there's no point unless you have really delicious tomatoes. So, I found a recipe using tinned tomatoes and it was easy peasy! Try it whilst the sunshine lasts.

1 large bottle passata
120 ml water
30 ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 cucumber, seeds removed chopped into small cubes
1 red pepper chopped into small cubes
1 small onion, chopped into small cubes
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
red chilli, finely chopped
30 ml sherry vinegar
1 bunch chopped parsley, basil or mint(whichever you prefer)

Blend ½ the tomatoes with the water and oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and season to taste. Regrigerate to allow the flavours to mingle until ready to serve.

Sunday, 11 May 2008


I love so much about Canteen, they're all about Great British Food, everything is responsibly and nationally sourced - good quality meat and sustainable fish. The menu's all comfort food classics its all cooked to order and reasonably priced (in the realm of the lower quality chains all over London). So all in all pretty good, plus its Tom Aiken's restaurant and I have a bit of a thing for Tom Aiken...

My personal favourites are the pies, daily changing veggie and meaty pies, served with mash and greens - mmmmm. Plus they only cost £9!

There are two restaurants, both in fabulous locations, Spitalfields and The Royal Festival Hall, both with lovely plush booths and central communal tables to give a canteen feel. Make sure you book though... Read more...

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Pasta with Peas, Basil and Pumpkin Seeds

I hate to say it, but another recipe from Nigel Slater. Once again the combination sounds a bit weird, but I love peas and I love basil, so I thought I'd give it a go. The toasted pumpkin seeds are delicious and go perfectly with the garlicky, oily peas. I never know what pasta to have with peas as they're so pesky and roll all over the plate, I guess you just have to go with it and have whatever you fancy. I think something little fettucine or parpadelle would go well here. I also couldn't resist grating over a little cheese...

Recipe

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Special Rice

This is the best recipe for generic 'egg fried rice' that I've come across. It came courtesy of my good friend, and has thai overtones, but I make no claims of authenticity. Basically, its just tasty, comforting rice in a bowl. Apparently ridiculous amounts of fish sauce and chilli are compulsory.
The idea is use up any left over vegetables you have. Mushrooms and peas work particularly well here as do any type of greens. To be honest, most things go.


Serves 2

1 cup brown rice, cooked
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 3cm piece of ginger, grated
2 chillis, finely chopped
3-4 cups assorted vegetables, cut into similar sized pieces
2 eggs, whisked
sunflower oil
fish sauce

Heat the sunflower oil in a wok until smoking hot, add the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli. fry for a few mins. Add the vegetables and cook for few mins more, stirring constantly. Now add the rice and fry for a few mins. Make a well in the centre, pour in the eggs and fry, stirring all the time until the egg is absorbed. Finish with a liberal slug of fish sauce. Feel free to add more chilli and fish sauce. Read more...

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Chocolate Muffins

Now I don't normally go in for chocolate muffins, I prefer, nuttier, fruitier versions. But these chocolate muffins are no ordinary chocolate muffins, another fabulous recipe from the wonderful Dan Lepard. They're just the right side of gooey to make them definietely a muffin, but still intense and chocolate. I made mine in cupcake cases, so you got perfect little bite sized cakes, the only problem is, you can eat 5 without noticing... Read more...

Monday, 5 May 2008

Pasta with Anchovy and Tomato Sauce

More pasta and more anchovies. You may be forgiven for thinking I'm obsessed, which is partly true, but you can't can't really go wrong with pasta can you? And anchovies are the perfect storecupboard ingredient.

Having spent most of the Bank holiday watching Jamie Oliver on BBC Food, I had a hankering for pasta, I found this in his Jamie's Italy book. You basically cook down some garlic, pine nuts and anchovies, add some red wine and tomatoe puree and stir through some breadcrumbs at the end. It sounds a bit strange, but I made it because it was the only recipe I had any ingredients for. Anyway, as you can probably guess, it turned out pretty damn tasty. I've specified less anchovies than I actually used to give a salty depth of flavour, rather than anything overpowering. If you love anchovies as much as me, use more!

Pasta with Anchovy and Tomato Sauce

Serves 1

1 clove of garlic, finely minced
2 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
1tbsp pine nuts
1tbsp tomato puree
60ml red wine, or a slug of red wine
1tbsp breadcrumbs
100g pasta (linguine works best)
cheese to serve

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. Cook the anchovy and garlic slowly in 1tbsp olive oil. As the anchovy dissolves, add the pine nuts, cook until they start to brown. Add the wine and tomato and cook for a few more mins until the alcohol had bubbled off. Add the cooked pasta, stir to coat and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and cheese. Read more...

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Sag Aloo

Having spent all week thinking about the saag panner that I had at Woodlands, I decided to try and make my own, the key was the saag part of the curry, it was a bright green, almost pureed sauce, brimming with flavour.

Seen as though I had some potatoes left to use up, I made sag aloo. I cooked the potatoes slowly in the onions and aromatic spice mixture, lifted them out and them cooked the spinach in the same pan, pureed it and then add the potatoes back in. All in all, I think this was a bit involved, so next time, I'd probably just chop the spinach really small to get the same texture. It was definitely good, just not as good as Woodlands...

2 onions, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1tbsp grated ginger
2tsp cumin seeds
2tsp gorund coriander
1tsp tumeric
2tsp garam masala
500g new potatoes, sliced into thick coins and cooked until soft
spinach, finely chopped
2tbsp yoghurt

Fry the onions, garlic and ginger slowly in sunflower oil until really soft, add the spices and fry for a few mins more. Add the potatoes and cook slowly for 5-10mins until the potatoes are really soft and have absorbed all the spices. Add the spinach and cook for 5mins more. Stir in the yoghurt and season to taste. Read more...

Time for Tea

The most pleasant thing to do of an afternoon in my opinion is to have afternoon tea. The most important things are lots of tea, scones, clotted cream and plenty of time spent. When I was in Oxford, the best place by far was The Rose, possibly my favourite place in the whole world. They have wonderful leaf teas (my favourite being the vanilla tea) and the scones are seriously the best I've ever tasted. They make them all in the kitchen daily. And, crucially, they serve them warm, with lots of clotted cream and homemade jam.

The picture above isn't actually taken in the Rose, it was a lovely tea room I found on a country walk with my friends Jamie and Jen. They had clotted cream, but the scones weren't amazing. Anyway, I'm sure I'll writing a lot more about The Rose in the future.

What follows is the recipe from The Rose itself, should you be inclined to make your own...

750g organic self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
50g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter
a pinch salt
320-350ml milk
1 egg, whisked to use as egg wash

Sift the flour with baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into dice, rub the butter into the flour with a very light touch, ensuring your finger never touch the butter, always keep the flour in between. Continue until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs.
Add milk, cut into the mixture with a palette knife a few times to distribute the milk better. Then gather the mass together gently rather than kneading. Roll out onto a floured tabletop to a thickness of 2½cm. Stamp out with a scone cutter. Place on a baking tray and brush the top with egg wash. Bake for 20min at 180-190°C. Read more...

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Herby Pasta

This was borne out of post pub hunger and trying to assemble something out of what was in the fridge. Thankfully you can't really go wrong with garlic, capers, anchovies, olives and herbs (we had oregano and parsley). For some reason, we decided to stir in a bit of creme fraiche at the end, but it was actually really tasty. Certainly soothed our boozed filled tummies...

Herby Pasta


Serves 2

Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
2tbsp capers
2tbsp olives, chopped
200g pasta
1 bunch chopped herbs (any combination)
2tbsp creme fraiche

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water. Meanwhile cook the garlic and anchovy in a slug of olive oil slowly until the anchovy dissolves. Add the pasta to the pan with the rest of the ingredients and season to taste. Read more...

Friday, 2 May 2008

Cafe Provencal

Cafe Provencal by Herne Hill station is one of those places that I cycle past everyday on my way to work, but it never really registered. Anyway, with something to celebrate and many of the other restaurants in the area exhausted, we decided to give this a go...

We were pleasantly surprised, the decor is all haphazard bohemian, and the atmosphere is really relaxed. The menu was good with regularly changing specials and it all looked homemade. I had the pasta special, white truffle ravioli with spinch and walnut pesto and it was delcious! served with a side salad too. Special mention must be given to the massive, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside chips - amazing.

Seen as though we skipped starters, we decided to have dessert and coffee, my favourite way to end a meal... we had good coffee and a prune and chocolate brownie. Sounds a bit strange but the sweet and gooey prunes worked really well. Plus, how lovely are the cups?

This is the kind of place to come for weekend lunches/brunches or a relaxed evening meal. I'm sure I'll be back.... Read more...

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Smoky Baked Sardines and Potatoes

The inspiration for this came from this month's Observer Food Monthly, I'm not sure whether it was pleasant or not reading all those summer recipes in the rain, but they were delicious and I've cooked one already, so they must be good!

I set out to use mackerel, but the fishmonger only had sardines, so I thought I'd give them a go. Sardines are even higher on the sustainability scale than mackerel and another of your omega-3 rich oily fish.. (see Fish online). So, sardines in hand, I merged several recipes and came up with this fiery little dish, I have that amazing Spanish smoked paprika which added a lovely sweet depth and you can't go wrong with crsipy potatoes and slow cooked onions, a meal in itself. We had it with salad, but in retrospect this would probably also go really well with some good quality (homemade?) mayonnaise.

Smoky Baked Sardines and Potatoes

500g new potatoes, sliced into thick coins
3-4 sardine fillets, depending on the size
2 onions, sliced into rings
1tbsp paprika
olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch pasley, finely chopped
1tbsp white wine vinegar
½ lemon

Add the potatoes to a large roasting tray so that they're in one layer, drizzle over oil, sprinkle with salt and half the paprika. Roast in a hot oven for about 20mins until the potatoes are pretty much cooked through.

Meanwhile cook the onions sloowly in oil until very soft, add the rest of the paprika, garlic, vinegar and parsley along with a little extra oil and take off the heat. Lay the sardines over the potatoes, add the onion mixture and bake for a further 8-10mins until the fish is completely cooked through. When cooked, squeeze over a little lemon juice. Read more...