Archive of ‘Recipes’ category

Spring time eating

One of the things I am most glad to see is the sign leading up to my office saying ‘fresh cut asparagus.’ A retired man sells bunches from his greenhouse every March and April and it definitely signals the beginning of spring, and the beginning of more interesting food.

There really is no point in buying asparagus out of season – its woody and has a strong cabbagey flavour that just isn’t nice. Fresh asparagus is just lovely, tender and sweet.
By happy coincidence my colleagues hens have starting laying lots of eggs recently so she bought in some for us to take home.

I made a simple dinner of grilled asparagus (with just olive oil and salt and pepper), a fried egg and some garlic and olive oil ciabatta. It made for a perfect start to spring, even though the weather isn’t trying very hard at the moment.
I think I’ll be back to grab some more asparagus before the short season is over, I spotted this Asparagus Pesto recipe over on Local Lemons which looks great.

Cooking – Lemon & Poppyseed Cake

One of my birthday gifts this year was a copy of the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, its been on my wishlist for a while along with the Magnolia Bakery book. There are so many brilliant recipes in it, it was so hard to pin one down to make first of all!

I picked this lemon poppyseed cake to make first, I’ve a soft spot for lemon cakes, lemon drizzle is my favourite kind of cake.

This one is a more complex version of a lemon drizzle cake, with a lemon syrup and a tangy lemon icing.I was suprised this cake didn’t contain any egg yolks, just whites, I was a little worried it would fall apart – but it was fine.

Lemon & Poppyseed Cake – from the Hummingbird Bakery Book

Ingredients (tweaked a little by me)

for the cake:
85g butter
245g brown sugar
zest of 2 lemons
2 tbsp poppyseeds
160mls of whole milk (I didn’t have whole so I used half cream half semi skimmed)
200g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder2 egg whites1/2 teaspoon salt

for the lemon syrup:
juice and zest of 2 lemons
50g caster sugar
50ml water

for the lemon glaze/icing:
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
125g icing sugar

Preheat your oven to gas mark 4 / 180c / 350fCream together butter, sugar, lemon zest and poppyseeds until light and fluffy. The recipe suggests using a mixer but I don’t have one (sob) so I used elbow grease and then when the mixture was well combined I pulsed it with an electric whisk (slowly) until it was fluffier.

Add the milk slowly incorporating well with the butter mixture.Sieve flour, baking powder and salt together and fold into milk and butter mixture in 3 stages.
Whisk your egg whites in a bowl until they form stiff peaks.
Carefully fold these into your cake mixture, try not to overmix.

Pour into a greased and lined cake tin. Bake for 30-40 minutes in your preheated oven til it is done (a knife should come out clean when you skewer it).Whilst your cake bakes make the lemon syrup. Add the lemon, sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer on a medium to high heat, stirring occassionally until you have a thick syrup. Remove from the heat. Pour over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.

The recipe suggests pouring it straight into the tin, I’ve had a lot of trouble with these kinds of syrups sticking to the greaseproof paper. So I turn the cake out into a plate and pour syrup over.
Next you need to make your glaze/icing. Add lemon juice to icing sugar in a bowl, beat until it is very smooth, it needs to be thick but pourable too. Add more sugar or juice to get the right consistency.

Wait until the cake is completely cool (torture!!) before you pour the icing over. Sprinkle with poppyseeds to decorate.

Once the icing is set cut yourself a large and well deserved piece.

Cooking: Rhubarb Crumble Cake

We are finally breaking through this gloomy winter and the sight of forced rhubarb appearing in the shops is a very welcome one. I love rhubarb, it has a wonderful flavour, can be used in many different ways and is terrible easy to cook – the main rule is – use lots of sugar.

I normally crumble rhubarb but we were cooking for guests this weekend and I thought it would be lovely to make something a little different with my thick pink rhubarb from the farm shop. I have made crumble cake before, its just perfect – a soft buttermilk sponge with soft stewed fruit and a crispy brown sugar topping.

It makes a lovely show off pudding but also holds up well to be thrown in your lunchbox for work days. I served mine warm with double cream, we’ve still got a couple of pieces left which I’m going to make custard for – because you have to have rhubarb with custard!

Rhubarb Crumble Cake – makes one quite big 9 inch sponge

for the cake:

150g granulated or brown sugar
150g butter
150g self raising flour
3 eggs – yolks and whites separated
approx 75ml butter milk (*see notes at the bottom)
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 large sticks (about 400g) rhubarb cut into chunks

Heat oven to gas mark 5 / 190c / 375f

First of all chop your rhubarb into chunks, about 1 inch thick, add to a bowl and sprinkle a couple of tablespoons over the top. Let it sit whilst you make the cake mix.

Cream together your butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then stir in your egg yolks.
In a separate bowl whisk your egg whites until they form soft peaks – doing this separately will make your cake lovely and light.
Fold in your egg whites and then add in your flour, spices and vanilla. Then lightly stir in your buttermilk til you have a smooth batter.

Spoon into a greased and lined cake tin.
Scatter your rhubarb on top. Now you need to make your crumble top.

for the crumble:
50g butter
50g flour
50g brown sugar
1 tsp cinamonn

Pulse your butter and flour in a food processor til you have a breadcrumb texture. Or rub together in a bowl. You may need to add a little more flour or butter if you mix is too floury or thick and buttery. Then mix in your sugar and cinamonn.
Sprinkle this over your mixture in your tin, and sprinkle a little extra brown sugar on top. Make sure most of the rhubarb is covered otherwise you’ll get a little too much ‘caramelisation’ (ie burning) of your rhubarb as it cooks.

Bake for 30-40minutes – my oven is a little tempermental so yours may vary – til a knife comes out clean. If your top starts to brown too much cover with foil.

Serve with custard, creme fraiche or cream and a big spoon!

*Notes about buttermilk (which I totally forgot to add before!)
You don’t to buy your own buttermilk for this cake, it’s easy to make yourself. Just put your milk (preferable semi skimmed, whole milk, or use single cream) in a cup and add a teaspoon for each 75ml of white vinegar or lemon juice and leave for 10 minutes. You basically want it to sour a little bit.


bacon, cheese, chipotle, macaroni

Yep – bacon, cheese and chipotle chilies with macaroni.

I picked up a tin of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce at the Cambridge Cheese Shop at the weekend. These are hard to find in shops in the uk, you can buy them online only (try A lot of mexican recipes call for a chipotle chili to be added to the mix, things like a good chili, gumbo, enchilada sauce. I LOVE mexican food and so I am so pleased to be able to find these locally.

Obviously now I was in possession of this key ingredient my mind went blank on what to use them for. Then this recipe on the Homesick Texan blog magically appeared on my reader one rainy day!
I love mac and cheese, growing up in a household where we had gujarati food every day and anything that wasn’t spicy was given a small amount of it anyway, mac and cheese was something I had never had until I started cooking myself.

This recipe really works to give an extra kick to the mac and cheese (reminscent of my mum’s turmeric laced lasagne, but in a good way!). Although it does use a really really large amount of cheese – a 2:1 ratio of cheese to pasta – it produces a lighter sauce than your traditional flour, milk and cheese sauce.

A few notes about my recipe – I forgot the cottage cheese. I knew it would give a thicker texture and I didn’t have anything like mascarpone or thick cream to replace it with, so I just used less milk and replaced the cottage cheese with more cheddar. And one of the things the original NY Times recipe says is – if in doubt – use more cheese. If your sauce seems thin, add more cheese!

Also try and find a really mature cheddar, this will really make a difference to your sauce.

If you can’t get hold of chipotles in adobo you can add a dash of chili powder or maybe even some tabasco sauce to your sauce. You won’t get the same smokey depth of flavour like chipotles give but you’ll get that extra kick!

Chipotle & Bacon Macaroni Cheese
serves 2 greedy people
adapted from Homesick Texan and NY Times

400g (2 cups) dried macaroni pasta
3/4 pint (1 1/2 cups) of semi skimmed or whole milk
now get ready… 800g (4 cups) grated extra mature cheddar cheese
1 chipotle chili plus a couple of teaspoons of adobo sauce from the tin
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 rashers of back bacon or 4 of streaky or pancetta, cut into chunks.

Preheat your oven to 375f / 190c / gas mark 5.
Pop the dish you are using in the oven to heat up, try to use a very deep ceramic dish if you can.

Blend together your milk, cheese, the chipotle chili and sauce and cumin. Do this in a food processor or a stick blender in a bowl. Season with black pepper.

Remove your dish from the oven and add your pasta (no need to cook it before, promise!) and then stir in the blended sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Then remove the foil, add the bacon on top and bake for a further 20-30 minutes until the pasta is cooked. You can add cheese to the top here if you like, but if you don’t the pasta will still bake up with a nice crust.

I don’t normally do drink/wine recommendation (mainly because I don’t know much about wine!) but I had this with a glass of apple and rhubarb juice which was a nice bit of sharpness to go with the cheese.

Cooking – Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Things have really been busy on the food front lately, as you can see from the blog.
With it being Valentines day today and with me not needing any more excuses to make cupcakes, I made these for my husband (oh ok, and also for me…).

These are for the chocolate lover in your life, light and moist chocolate cupcakes topped with a beautiful and rich buttercream with extra dark 70% chocolate. I added a touch of golden syrup to my usual sponge recipe and it gave the cupcakes a lovely crisp top, a bit like a brownie.

For 12 cupcakes:

4oz / 100g butter
4oz / 100g caster or granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 oz / 50g self raising flour
2 oz / 50g cocoa powder (Green & Blacks is the best)
2 tsps golden syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
optional – dried cranberries

Cream the butter and sugar til creamy, add in the eggs, vanilla extract and golden syrup. Combine. Then fold in your self raising flour and cocoa.

Spoon a generous heaped tablespoon into cupcake cases. Sprinkle with a couple of dried cranberries. Bake at gas mark 5 for 15minutes. Once baked allow to cool whilst you make the buttercream.

for the buttercream – thank you to Big Stove Year for the recipe, I reduced it for my cupcakes and it came out lovely!

100g butter, softened
100g icing sugar
tablespoon of milk
50g melted chocolate – 70% at least

*if you are really into your dark chocolate you could substitute a couple of tablespoons out of the icing sugar for cocoa powder for a proper chocolate kick.

Melt chocolate over a bain marie or bowl over hot water in a pan.
Cream butter and icing sugar together with the milk, use an electric whisk, this will really save your arms! Add a touch more milk if your icing seems a little dry.
Once combined add in your chocolate and whisk til very smooth.

Spread or pipe (I tried piping and it wasn’t neat!) your icing over your cupcakes. Leave to set in the fridge until you can’t bear it any longer and must eat one.

And obviously save one or two for the loved one in your life…


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