Wednesday 30 April 2008

Fish Pie and Handy Frozen Potato Discs

I love a good old fashioned fish pie. There are no frills with this recipe but it is delicious. What makes this a little different is instead of spreading mashed potato on top I used frozen discs of the mash. There was a good deal of discussion on Vi's pantry, a foodie forum I frequent, about these. Delia Smith used a supermarket bought version in her How to Cheat Book. I did try them but I dislike the mass produced mashed potato products as they have a texture like wallpaper paste and taste pretty much the same. Not that I am in the habit of eating wallpaper paste you understand. I prefer to make my own fast food. In this country I am sure most households have a pile of old potatoes just past their best and I am the same. I hate waste so I boiled up the ones I had, mashed them with butter and left them to get cold. I chopped them up a bit and turned them out onto the work top and kneaded
them a little so they became nice
and soft and easy to handle. I rolled them out to about 1/2 a
centimetre thick and then cut them out with a pastry cutter.
I then placed them on baking trays lined with greaseproof paper. Popped them in the freezer for a couple of hours and once frozen peeled them off and popped them in a bag. Instant pie topping. I love mashed potato but for some reason I have always disliked it as a pie topping. I think it has something to do with the sauce underneath soaking into the topping. Using the frozen potato discs completely stops this happening so that is an added bonus. Either way it is a good way to use up spare mashed potatoes

There is not really a recipe for the fish pie so feel free to add what you like.

500gms/1lb Smoked Cod Loin
500gms/1lb Cod loin
500mls / 1 pint milk
4 tablespoons flour
100gms/4oz mature cheddar cheese grated
2 hard-boiled eggs sliced thinly
1 teaspoon old bay seasoning(optional)
Chopped parsley
Black pepper.
Mashed potatoes or potato discs as above.

Cut each piece of fish in half and place in a large pan with the milk.
Simmer until just cooked
Place each piece of fish in a dish one on top of the other if needs be.
Melt the butter in another pan and stir in the flour.
Allow to cook for a few minutes.
Stir in the milk the fish was cooked in little by little stirring well after each addition.
Keep stirring over a low heat until the sauce has thickened.
Remove from the heat stir in the grated cheese, leaving a little for sprinkling at the end, black pepper chopped parsley and old bay seasoning if required.
Pour 2/3 of the sauce over the fish breaking it up with a fork as you do so.
Place the sliced hard-boiled egg on top.
Add the rest of the sauce.
Place the potato discs or mashed potatoes on top.
Sprinkle with the remaining cheese
Bake at 180.C/350.F/Gas4 until golden brown and bubbling.

I find it convenient to make this in the morning, let it get cold then assemble ready for the oven later. If you do this a little piece of cling film on the surface of the sauce prevents a skin forming

Friday 25 April 2008


On Vi's pantry we have a challenge running. Every two weeks each participating member has to post three recipes. Everyone who wishes to take part makes one or more of the dishes and votes as to whether they like it. This is all about challenging us to make things we possibly haven't tried before. This recipe is from Kitchengoddess. She took it from a Cuban recipe book she had received. I was unsure at first as it appeared to be quite bland. I decided to give it a go. I let it cook for four hours on a very low heat. I then let cook for a further hour before serving. I was so impressed it was lovely. Really really tasty. It certainly lends itself to long slow cooking. The flavours really intensify with the cooking. I served it with noodles and sweet chilli sauce and some fresh bread from the oven. A delicious meal.

The Recipe (Serves 6):

  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 2 cups seeded and finely chopped green bell pepper
  • Olive oil to sauté
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds ground beef or ground round
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 cup chopped green olives
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Sauté onion and green pepper in olive oil in a large casserole dish.
  2. Sauté about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened, then add the garlic and ground beef.
  3. Mash the onion and green pepper into the sautéing meat and cook until the meat is browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, olives and raisins.
  5. Cover and let simmer in the crockpot for an hour or two or more. The longer it simmers, the better the flavour, and it’s also great warmed up later as the flavours intensify.
  6. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cheesy Garlic Hearth Breads

These are so easy to make so easy to eat. The perfect accompaniment to soups casseroles rice dishes or anywhere you would use bread. It's lovely as a snack on it's own too. Very hard to resist when fresh from the oven. Known in Italy as Focaccia bread from the Latin word focus which means hearth. The embers of the hearth were where this bread was traditionally baked. They are very much a moveable feast and can incorporate sun dried tomatoes roasted peppers olives capers or fresh herbs. In this recipe cheese is used in the dough and the breads are topped with a cheats version of garlic and parsley oil topping. The mustard and cayenne pepper really bring out the flavour of the cheese
The original recipe is from How To be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. This bears a passing resemblance to the original.

500gms/1lb2oz white bread flour
1 sachet fast action yeast
2 teaspoons salt
100gms/4oz strong cheddar cheese grated
1 good teaspoon English mustard
A few shakes of cayenne pepper
300-400mls /101/2-14 fluid ozs warm water
5 tablespoons olive oil plus more for greasing and topping

Jarred garlic
Fresh or dried parsley or pesto
Olive oil.
Combine the flour salt yeast and cheese in a bowl
Mix the olive oil with 300mls of the warm water and add to the dry ingredients.
Using an oiled hand mix together until a soft dough using a extra water if needed.
Knead for ten minutes by hand or whatever your preferred method is.
Form into a ball and leave in a lightly oiled bowl covered with cling film in a warm place until doubled in size.
Knock back and pull out of the bowl.
Divide into 2 or 4 pieces (2 makes very large breads)
Set the balls of dough on a greased baking sheet and either press or roll out into ovals.
Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for about 30 minute.
In the meantime, combine some jarred garlic with parsley/pesto and olive oil until a thickish pouring paste.
When the bread is nice and puffy, dimple it gently with your finger tips, pour and spread the olive oil mixture over.
Bake in a preheated oven 190.C/375.F/Gas5 for 15-20 minutes until nicely golden.
When they come out of the oven drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle some salt.
Serves four generously.

Try and resist just one bite.........

Spring Into Summer

As the days lengthen and we head into summer the winter love affair with comforting casseroles and stews goes into decline. A little too early for barbecues and salad in colder climates, this bridges the gap beautifully and as lamb is in season it is perfect. Pomegranates are available in supermarkets most of the year now so that should not be a problem. Lemon Zest and juice maybe used if it is. It tastes every bit as nice although it may not look just as pretty. I like to serve this with boiled new potatoes. The recipe comes from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson

Warm Shredded Lamb Salad With Mint and Pomegranates

1 shoulder of lamb (approx 2.5 kilograms)
4 shallots halved but not peeled
6 cloves garlic left whole
1 carrot peeled and halved
malden salt
500ml boiling water
small handful freshly chopped mint
1 pomegranate

1.Preheat the oven to 140C/ gas mark 1.

2.On the hob, brown the lamb, fat side down, in a large roasting tin. Remove when nicely browned in the middle (you won't get much more than this) and set aside while you fry the vegetables briefly. Just tip them into the pan - you won't need to add any more fat - and cook them, sprinkled with salt, gently for a couple of minutes. Pour the water over and then replace the lamb, this time fat side up. Let the liquid in the pan come to a bubble, then tent with foil and put in the preheated oven.

3.Now just leave it there while you sleep. I find that if I put the lamb in before I go to bed, it's perfect by lunchtime the next day. But the point is, at this temperature, nothing's going to go wrong with the lamb if you cook it for a little less or a little more.

4.If you want to cook the lamb the day you're going to eat it, heat the oven to 170C/ gas mark 3 and give it 5 hours or so. The point is to find a way of cooking that suits you.

5.About an hour before you want to eat, remove the lamb from the tin to a large plate or carving board; not that it needs carving: the deal here is that it's unfashionably overcooked, falling to tender shreds at the touch of a fork. This is the best way to deal with shoulder of lamb: it's cheaper than leg, and the flavour is deeper, better, truer, but even good carvers, which I most definitely am not, can get unstuck trying to slice it.

6.To finish the lamb salad, simply pull it to pieces with a couple forks on a large plate. Sprinkle with more Malden salt and some freshly chopped mint, then cut the pomegranate in half and dot with the seeds from one of the halves. This is easily done; there's a simple trick, which means you never have to think of winkling out the jewelled pips with a safety pin ever again. Simply hold the pomegranate half above the plate, take a wooden spoon and start bashing the curved skin side with it. Nothing will happen for a few seconds, but have faith. In a short while the red glassy, juicy beads will start raining down.

7.Take the other half and squeeze the preposterously pink juices over the warm shredded meat. Take to the table and serve.

8.What I do with the leftovers is warm a pitta bread in the microwave, and then spread it with a greedy dollop of hummous, then take the chill off the fridged lamb in the microwave too (and see notes on cold fat, above) and stuff the already gooey pitta with it. Add freshly chopped mint, black pepper and whatever else you like; raw, finely chopped red onion goes dangerously well.

Monday 21 April 2008

Rose and Lavender Tea Finger Cookies

George will be very pleased I have finally taken the plunge and made something containing rose and lavender. She has been trying to encourage me to do so for some time. Having never used scented ingredients,I was unsure of the outcome. I am happy to report they are just lovely. Very delicately flavoured and very moreish. The recipe comes from my recently purchased Cookie and Biscuit Bible by Catherine Atkinson. It calls for Lady Grey tea leaves but I substituted with some heavenly green tea leaves containing rose petals and lavender which were sent to me by dear Carlotta in Italy. I have loved looking and smelling this tea but it seemed such a waste to just make tea with it. This was an ideal opportunity to use it for something a little different.

Makes about 36
150gms /50z unsalted butter
115gms/4oz soft brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons Lady Grey tea leaves
1 egg beaten
200gms/7oz plain flour
Demarara sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 190.C/375.F/Gas 5
Line two or three baking shets with non-stick baking parchment.
Beat the bitter and sugar together until light and creamy
Stir in the tea leaves
Beat in the egg
Carefully fold in the flour
Roll the dough into a cylinder about 23cm/9 inches long.
Gently flatten the top of it with your hand.
Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for about an hour until firm
Using a sharp knife cut the dough into 5mm/1/4 inch slices and lay slightly apart on the prepared baking trays
Sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned
Using a palette knife remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool


Sunday 20 April 2008

Chocolate Butterscotch Shortbread

I had it in my mind to make butterscotch biscuits. I love shortbread. Really nice and crunchy. In my mind, the perfect base in which to experiment with flavours. I have ordered butterscotch chips but as they are coming from America it will take two weeks for them to get here. I really have no patience. I noticed some Green & Black's Butterscotch chocolate the other day and thought I might try with this. The result was not as butterscotchy as I would have liked but the little bits if honeycomb exploded rather satisfactorily in my mouth and the little bits of chocolate were lovely. All in all a nice wee biscuit easily made.

8oz/225gms butter

4oz/100gms dark brown sugar
8oz/225gms plain flour
4oz/100gms cornflour

pinch of salt

1 bar Green & Black's Butterscotch Chocolate smashed into small pieces

Cream softened butter and sugar.
Add the chocolate
Add the sifted flours and salt gradually and mix well
Turn out onto a floured worktop and knead lightly into a round

Roll out and cut into biscuits
Bake at 350F /180.C /Gas 4 for about 15 mins or until golden
Place on a cooling rack to crisp up.

Makes about 30 biscuits with a small cutter

Thursday 17 April 2008

Simple Green Sides

I try to make vegetables inviting looking if I can. I just love the colour combination of Kale and Carrot. Kale has become very popular in recent years. It is associated by many as cattle fodder but that is a much tougher variety than the curly leaved Kale we eat and enjoy. It freezes well as the flavour actually improves when exposed to frost. It is extremely nutritious too.
Kale contains four times more Magnesium and five times more Calcium than Brussels sprouts 17 times more Vitamin C than carrots and four times more than spinach. Nearly double the magnesium of spring greens . More folate than broccoli and seven times more carotene than cabbage. It also tastes very good. Sweated off in some butter is all it requires. It holds it's shape much better than cabbage. All in all a good choice for a side veggie.

Left Over Lettuce

How many of us have a lettuce or a bag of greens that are just a wee bit limp to serve as salad? Don't dispatch them to the bin or the compost heap. Use them as tonight's vegetable. Just cook in a little melted butter for a few minutes. I add a little chilli sauce. It tastes wonderful and stops the waste. I suppose a green footprint if you will.
Lettuce has surprisingly high nutritional content. Not Iceberg as they are nearly all water. Others such as Cos, Romaine and Little Gem are rich in Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Folate, Iron, Potassium and Manganese. So don't chuck it eat it.

Our Grannies were right when they told us to eat up our greens. They really are good for you.

Good Health!

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Ritzy Chicken Nuggets with Sweet Chilli Sauce

There is a junk food addict inside of me I am convinced. While I don't buy this sort of thing at the supermarket or eat at fast food establishments I confess a liking, now and again, to eat this sort of food. There is of course a big difference in making your own. They taste nicer for a start and you are sure what is in them.
This recipe is from Nigella Lawson's Feast and is wickedly delicious.

Please take my word for it and marinade in the buttermilk for 2 full days then pan fry them. They are so much better this way rather than baking in the oven.

Ritzy Chicken Nuggets by Nigella

2 -3chicken breasts
275mls/1/2 pint buttermilk
2-3 Tablespoons oil (if you are frying the nuggets)
150gms/5 oz Ritz cracker crumbs or any salted cheesy snack biscuits or crackers will do

Place the one of the chicken breasts into a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin until the chicken is quite thin.
Take it out and slice into about 6 to 8 slices.
Repeat with the other chicken breast. This is easiest done with scissors.

Put the slices into a freezer bag with the buttermilk and leave in the refrigerator to marinade for up to 2 days.
When you are ready to cook them, heat the oil in a large frying pan.
Tip the cracker crumbs into a wide shallow bowl, and then shake off the excess buttermilk from the nuggets and dip them in the crumbs. Coat them well before lying gently in the hot oil, and cooking for about 2 minutes or so a side until they are golden brown. Transfer to a kitchen towel on a plate to blot the excess oil.
They can be frozen once marinated and crumbed.
Allow a little more time if cooking from frozen.

The buttermilk really seems to make a difference. These are truly delicious

The chilli sauce? I hear you ask. Oh that's easy. I got it in a bottle ......well it was a junkie sort of meal.

Scottish Morning Rolls

These are an institution in Scotland. They just cannot be replicated the same way anywhere else. One of the many things I miss about my youth in Scotland. I remember well in my training days our route from the nurse's home to the bus stop took us past the hospital kitchens. Cookie was always so obliging and shoved a fried egg into one of these delicious warm -from- the -oven rolls to feed each hungry young nurse on the hoof. We ran on to the bus, egg yolk dribbling down our chins. Oh I can taste it yet. Pure Ambrosia. I don't pretend that these rolls are anywhere near what the Scots enjoy for breakfast from their local bakers but, when you can't just pop out and buy them locally they are not a bad second.

500gms/18oz Strong White Bread Flour
50gms /2oz lard
1 teasp salt
1 envelope/7gms fast action yeast
150mls/5 fluid oz/1/4 pint warm water
150mls /5 fluid oz/1/4 pint warm milk
A little milk for glazing.
Extra flour for dusting
Oil for kneading

Mix the dry ingredients together.
Rub in the lard.
Add both liquids and combine with a well oiled hand until a soft dough is formed.
If it is dry add more water but only a trickle at a time.
Knead for ten minutes by hand or your preferred method.
Place in a covered bowl and allow to double in size in a warm place (Approx. 1 hour)
Knock back and divide into 8 pieces. Form into flattish discs about 2-3 cms thick and place quite close together on a floured baking sheet.
Dredge with flour cover with a tea towel and leave to rise again for 1/2-3/4 of an hour.
Brush the tops with milk and dredge with more flour
Indent the top of each roll with your thumb about 1.5cms/1/2 inch
Bake at 180.c/350.F/Gas 4 for 15-20 minutes
Remove to a cooling rack and cover with a tea towel.
Eat while still warm
Better still have that fried egg ready.

Oatie Biscuits with a Bit of Chocolate Decadence

These are the first biscuits I ever made. I was a child then and my mother gave me the cookery lesson. I am still making them today and why not. They are so simple to make, so crisp and moreish. They can be left plain, a wee bit of caster sugar sprinkled over, or, tarted up with a bit of chocolate. What more do you want with a cup of tea in the afternoon?

225gms/8oz softened butter or margarine
100gms/4oz caster sugar
100gms /4oz plain flour
275gms/10oz porridge oats

Cream the butter and sugar together
Add the flour and mix well
Add porridge oats and mix well again.
Roll out on a floured surface to approx. 1/2cm/1/4inch thick
Cut out with a small cutter

Bake at 180./350.F/Gas4
for about 15 minutes or until just turning golden brown.
Remove to a cooling rack to crisp up.
Decorate whatever way you want.
Sometimes I make them a little thinner and sandwich them with chocolate.

Yields approx. 30 biscuits.

Friday 11 April 2008

Another Chocolate Cake

I have certainly been in cake overdrive this week. My daughter requested a cake to take into work. I decided on the Chocolate cake from Nigel Slater's Appetite. It is a lovely cake and very dependable. He has ground hazlenuts in the recipe which I did not include just in case the happy munchers had nut allergies. It is basically a pound cake recipe. Although he leaves the cake plain I added a ganache topping splattered with white chocolate for decoration. I am happy to report that not a crumb was left and it was greatly enjoyed.

250g/9oz butter
250g /9oz demerara or dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
3 tbspns espresso coffee
250g /9oz plain flour
2 heaped tspns baking powder
200g /7oz coarsely ground hazelnuts
250g/9oz chopped fine dark chocolate (It should look like gravel)

Line a 23 cm tin and preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas4
Beat the butter and sugar till fluffy and pale.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating lightly between each addition. Don't worry if it curdles a bit. Stir in the coffee.
Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in.
Fold in most of the hazelnuts and chocolate, keeping a little back for the top of the cake.
The mixture should be quite firm.
Pour into tin and smooth the top, scattering over the rest of the nuts and chocolate.
Bake for 1 hour and 20 mins or until springy, leaving an inserted skewer clean.
Leave for half an hour or so before cutting.
Best served warm

100mls Double cream
100 gms dark chocolate

Place the cream and broken pieces of chocolate into a saucepan.
Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and beat until thick and smooth.

Thursday 10 April 2008

A Simple Everyday Curry

The notion of a curry is what the British during their rule in India referred to when eating spicy food. Indians in India would never have used the word curry to describe all sorts of dishes. They would use individual names reflecting the regional variations of countless curry dishes. A curry in India is a spicy stew like dish, something that has a sauce base. The days of the Raj were decadent and this was reflected in their cooking.Every social event paid special attention to the food and the British Memsahibs ran households that included chefs and cooks. Many of them were highly trained to cater for the western palate. Often, the grand meals would have consisted of game and poultry which was of poor quality so the cooks would often have to improvise by creating hybrid dishes such as chapatis and homemade jam. Breakfasts would consist of omelettes seasoned with spices and the simple Indian dish of rice and lentils known as kichidi turned into the British kedgeree with the addition of smoked kippers shipped from England. So from morning, noon until night, all the meals became a fusion of western and eastern cooking traditions. Just as the British in India had endeavoured to replicate home comfort cuisine, when they arrived back in Blighty, they craved a little of the East and that was 'curry'.

If you are a purist about Asian food I suggest you turn away now. This is not the sort of curry you will get in restaurants but nevertheless it is a warming spicy dish which can use fresh meat or it can be a quick sauce for left over cooked meat such as chicken. Just the thing for something tasty when you don't want to slave over lists of ingredients.

The original recipe comes from The Good Granny Cookbook by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall. A wonderful book full of traditional British family recipes with a bit of an update. It is one I reach for when I am tired and don't want any complications in the day.

1 Tablespoon oil
1 Large onion finely chopped
2 Cloves garlic finely chopped
1 Large carrot cubed
1 Large potato cubed
Curry Powder or Paste (Whatever heat and strength suits your palate)
1 Tablespoon tomato puree
1 Tablespoon Spicy Fruit Chutney (If you don't have chutney in your store cupboard marmalade will do)
Stock or water
2 tablespoons of thick cream or greek yoghurt
Salt and Pepper
225gms/8ozs long grain rice of your choice.


In a saucepan fry the onions garlic carrot and potatoes for about five minutes until they begin to brown.
Add the curry powder or paste modifying the amount to your taste
Add the tomato puree, chutney and enough stock/water to cover the vegetables.
Stir well bring to the boil and simmer gently for about twenty minutes.
Meanwhile put a large saucepan with salted water on to boil for the rice.
Put the rice into the boiling salted water.
When it is ready drain and return to the saucepan and cover with a tea towel and the saucepan lid.
When the sauce has been simmering for twenty minutes add the meat, stir and continue to simmer.
Just before serving season and stir in the cream or yoghurt.
Serve with warm flat breads to mop up the delicious sauce.

If using fresh meat use about 225gms/8oz and brown off with the onions and vegetables. Add more stock and if using lamb or beef allow to cook until tender (about an hour) adding more stock/water as required. If using fresh chicken cooking time will be a lot less and of course don't cook the rice until the meat is almost cooked.

I rather like a knob of butter stirred into the rice before serving but that of course is up to you and your personal health standards!

Monday 7 April 2008

Ruby Velvet Chocolate Cake

It would seem I have been in cake baking mode this past few days. My granddaughter wanted to make a chocolate cake to decorate with smarties so who was I to deny her? We made one in a sandwich tin for her and one in a loaf tin. for me. It would make a wonderful layer cake and I certainly will do this with it the next time and there will definitely be a next time. I had a few items that needed using up so I tried to plan a cake round those. The cake ended up as light as a feather but so intensely chocolatey it surprised me as the colour of the cake was not as dark as some I have made. The ganache topping was perfect for it and just added to the chocolate decadence. The name? Well the little one wanted to call it Ruby. The texture made me think of velvet so Ruby Velvet Chocolate Cake it was.

200gms/7oz self raising flour
200gms/70z caster sugar
200gms/7oz softened butter or soft margerine
50gms/2oz cocoa powder
50gms/2oz dark chocolate
150mls/5fl oz creme fraiche
2 large eggs
2 teasps vanilla extract
2 x Sandwich tins greased and lined

50gms/2oz dark chocolate
50gms/2oz milk chocolate (or 100gms dark)
100mls double/heavy cream

Heat oven to 180.C/350,F/Gas 4
Mix the flour and sugar in a large bowl
Add the butter/marg
Melt the chocolate in another bowl and add the eggs, cocoa, creme fraiche and vanilla and whisk well.
Add the chocolate mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl and beat together really well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and bake for about 30 mins until firm on top.
If using loaf tins they will take about ten minutes longer.
Allow to cool in the tins before turning out.

Topping /Filling
When the cakes have cooled
Break the chocolate into little pieces and add to the cream in a small saucepan.
Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and beat until thick and smooth.

If sandwiching the cakes spread the mixture on the underside of one cake. Place the other on top and spread the remaining mixture on it.

I sprinkled Belgian chocolate vermicelli over.

Friday 4 April 2008

Time For A Cake

Today I really wanted to make a cake. I had plans for something terribly grand but the arrival of my grandchildren made me think again. I love them dearly but they are not great aids to the concentration. I also wanted to use a silicone loaf tin sent to me by my lovely forum friend George. I have never used silicone bake ware so this was to be something of an adventure. I like to make cakes in loaf tins as it makes it easier to slice and also to store. Now what to make. I lifted Nigella Lawson's How To be A Domestic Goddess. It opened immediately at Store Cupboard Orange Chocolate cake so off I went. It was so easy to throw together. I used my own home made marmalade which I always have in abundance
Melting chocolate and butter in a saucepan and mixing everything in was exactly the simplicity required for today's circumstances. A lovely moist light tangy cake was the end result and I would highly recommend it.

125 grams /-5 oz unsalted butter
100 grams /4oz dark chocolate broken into pieces
300 grams/11 oz good quality orange marmalade
150 grams/+5oz castor sugar
a pinch of salt
2 large eggs beaten
150 grams /-5oz self-raising flour

Melt the butter slowly in a heavy-bottom saucepan. When it's almost melted, add chocolate pieces, stir and take off the heat. Stir with a wooden spoon, until chocolate has melted.
Add the marmalade, sugar, salt and eggs. Stir thoroughly (it's okay to leave small visible chunks of marmalade in the batter).
Add sifted flour gradually, stirring well each time.
Pour the batter into a buttered and floured 20-22 cm loose bottomed cake tin.
Bake at 180˚C/350.F/Gas 4 oven for 45-50 minutes, until the cake has set (test with a knife or skewer).
Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then slide onto a plate.

I dusted with a little icing sugar.

Thursday 3 April 2008


The Irish obsession with the humble potato. After a winter of peeling boiling champing and chipping what can be nicer than the first new potatoes of the season boiled in their jackets tossed in butter with herbs and sea salt. Sir Walter Raleigh, British explorer and historian known for his expeditions to the Americas, first brought the potato to Ireland in 1589 from South America and planted them at his Irish estate at Myrtle Grove,Youghal, near Cork, Ireland. Legend has it that he made a gift of the potato plant to Queen Elizabeth I . The local gentry were invited to a royal banquet featuring the potato in every course. Unfortunately, the cooks, uneducated in the matter of potatoes, tossed out the lumpy-looking tubers and brought to the royal table a dish of boiled stems and leaves which, being poisonous, promptly made everyone deathly ill. The potatoes were then banned from court. There have been famines and war but the potato remains one of Ireland's treasures and when you see them on your plate with the butter melting over them could you fault it?