January 29, 2013


toad in the hole1 My mum used to make toad in the hole and it was a real favourite with our family.  A huge roasting tin brim full of crisp and fluffy Yorkshire pudding blanketing  a whole pound of sausages, served up with mashed potatoes and greens…..heaven on  a plate.  It’s the ultimate comfort food I think.

My Yorkshire puddings have never quite lived up to the standard of my mum’s so my toad in the hole was usually rather hit and miss if I made it in a large tray.  I have had much more success since I started making mini ones using a muffin tray.

toad in the hole2 toad in the hole3

The recipe I use is from an old Weight Watchers cookbook.  It’s very similar to an ordinary recipe for toad in the hole except that it uses much less fat, low fat sausages and some onion. 

Personally I have never really got the point of low fat sausages.  I am inclined to think that if you’re trying to lose weight you should probably give up sausages altogether rather than eat the low fat poor relations.  So I make my toads with real sausages, which obviously makes a nonsense of their points value but they taste really good !!

toad in the hole4

 Do they look even vaguely like toads to you ??!!

I have also never quite understood why it should be called toad in the hole.  To me the sausages look nothing like a toad sticking its head out of a hole – something I would certainly never be tempted to take a bite of, but that’s the official origin, allegedly.

I usually make half quantities of the batter for two or three of us, serving three or two toads each accordingly.  Serve with a good pile of mashed potatoes, green veg and onion gravy.


approx 1 tblsp sunflower oil

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

12 chipolata sausages

125g plain flour

1 egg

salt and pepper

300ml milk


Preheat the oven to 220°C / 200° fan / gas mk 7.

Divide the oil between the holes of a 12-hole muffin tray.  Put in the oven to heat up for 2 minutes.

Cut the sausages in half.  Put some slices of onion and two halves of sausage in each muffin hole.  Return to the oven for 8 minutes and the sausages should then be lightly browned.

Make the batter while the sausages are in the oven.  Sift the flour into a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Make a well in the middle and break in the egg.  Gradually add the milk and whisk until you have a smooth batter.

Pour the batter over the sausages, dividing equally between them.  Return to the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until the batter is risen, crisp and golden.

Serves 4 people (three each) or 6 (two each) if you prefer a lighter meal !!

January 26, 2013


For a while now I have had an urge to bake a swiss roll.  I spotted the recipe for “luscious lemon swiss roll” in one of the Hairy Bikers books and felt it was time I had a go at something slightly more challenging than my normal baking.  You can see their recipe here but in the end I decided to opt for the Mary Berry version from her Baking Bible,  as it looked more straightforward.

swiss roll1 swiss roll2 swiss roll3

Making the sponge is easy enough.  You make a whisked fatless mixture and just have to remember to tip the tin to make sure it levels itself and flows into the corners, without pushing too much with a spoon as that would knock some of the air out.

swiss roll4 swiss roll5

Once the sponge is baked things get tricky.  First of all you have to take a deep breath, take your life in your hands and tip your precious cake upside down onto a sheet of sugared baking paper.  There is nothing to be gained from dithering here, just get on with it, tip it over and hope for the best.  I was lucky and it turned out in one piece.

Before rolling it up you should trim the edges and cut a line in the sponge near to one end.  Then things get really scary.

swiss roll6

The Hairies suggest rolling up the sponge, then unrolling it and leaving it to cool before filling it and re-rolling.  I just couldn’t see that working for me.  I could imagine ending up with the whole thing in pieces even before I got the filling in, so I decided to go for Mary’s single roll-up method.

If you spread your filling on the cake when it’s too warm it apparently soaks into the cake.  I used buttercream as well as lemon curd and could imagine it melting and oozing out if the cake wasn’t cool enough.  On the other hand, if it was too cool it might not roll up and it might crack.

I decided to use the baking paper as an aid to rolling it evenly but that was not without its issues (to quote Paul Hollywood on the recent Bake Off series).  I rolled it away from me but once the first turn was made I discovered that you needed to be a very tall contortionist to be able to lean over and see what was going on on the other side of the paper !!

swiss roll7But it worked.  I was sure it had cracked as I rolled it up but if it did the crack was hidden underneath the cake and it held together. 

swiss roll8

So it was a bit more fiddly than the things I usually bake and there were definitely a few nervous moments.  But it was much better than a shop bought cake and I would definitely make it again.

Tea_Time_Treatrs_logo I am making this my second entry into this month’s Tea Time Treats Challenge, hosted this month by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, alternating with Kate of What Kate Baked.  The theme this month is citrus and I absolutely love that in a cake.


for the cake:

4 large eggs

100g caster sugar

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

100g self raising flour

for the filling:

2 tablespoons lemon curd

50g Stork baking liquid

225g icing sugar

juice of ½ a lemon


Preheat the oven to 220°C / 200°fan / gas mk 7.  Grease a 33cm x 23cm swiss roll tin and line it with baking paper.

First, make the buttercream.  Put the Stork baking liquid into a medium bowl, sift in the icing sugar, add the lemon juice and beat together until light and fluffy.  Set aside.

Using an electric whisk, whisk the eggs, sugar and lemon zest together until you have a very thick, pale mixture.  It is whisked enough when the beaters leave a trail as you lift them out of the mixture.

Sift the flour into the mixture and fold it in gently using a metal spoon.  Pour the mixture into the prepared swiss roll tin, tipping it a little to encourage the mixture to flow into the corners.

Bake the sponge for 10 minutes until the cake is golden brown, shrinks away from the sides of the tin and springs back to the touch. 

While it’s in the oven, cut a piece of baking parchment bigger than the tin, spread it out on the worktop and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Remove the cake from the oven and immediately invert the tin to tip it upside down onto the sugared paper.  Remove the paper from the bottom (now the top) of the cake.  Use a sharp knife to trim the edges and score a line 1cm in from one short end, without cutting through the cake.

Allow it to cool slightly, spread with the lemon curd then the buttercream.  Turn the cake so that the scored short end is nearest to you and, using the paper to help you manoeuvre the cake, take a deep breath and roll it up.

Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with a little more caster sugar.

Cuts into 12 slices.

January 21, 2013


Dom’s Random Recipe Challenge at Bellau Kitchen this month is to cook something using a recipe taken randomly from a book selected at random from a friend’s collection of cookbooks.  So I asked my friend Pat, an enthusiastic baker and colleague at work, to bring me a book chosen at random from her cookbooks and she brought me the one that was stuffed into the magazine rack next to the sofa !!

lattice pie1

It was “The New Classic 1000 Recipes” by Wendy Hobson. I flipped the pages and of course on each page there is more than one recipe. On the page I opened I could have chosen from Queen of Puddings, Baked Rice Pudding, Toffee Fruit Cobbler or 2-Layer Lemon Bake, all of which sounded yummy. But I chose the Austrian Lattice Pie because I had never made one before.


lattice pie2 I decided to use frozen raspberries, partly because they are about half the price of fresh ones but also because the fresh ones available in our local supermarkets all looked a bit ropey.  They seem to be mouldy almost as soon as you get them home at the moment.

lattice pie3 There was no picture in the book for me to see what the end result should look like so I had to use my imagination.  I don’t have an 18cm flan ring and I wondered if the filling might turn out a bit too skinny if I used  a larger one.  So I decided to use a small pie dish, an old Pyrex one that I bought for 20p in a charity shop last year, thinking it was too good a bargain to resist and was bound to come in handy one day !!

As I was putting the lattice on top I remembered how neat and tidy Dom made his when he did a lattice pie some time last year.  I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it so I went for the easy option – even though it definitely wouldn’t have got me any Brownie points with the Bake-Off judges !!  At least it didn’t have a soggy bottom !!

It also reminded me of something I saw on a TV cookery programme and realised that what I was making was almost a Linzer tart.  Having checked afterwards I find that Linzer tarts tend to be made using ground almonds in the pastry and raspberry jam.

lattice pie4 I ended up with a lovely deep pie with lots of raspberry and almond filling.  It was absolutely delicious and definitely one I will be making again.  The recipe says it serves four but we got six ample slices from it.


225g (8 oz) shortcrust pastry

350g raspberries

75g caster sugar

15g butter

1tsp ground cinnamon

50g ground almonds

1 egg white, lightly beaten


Preheat the oven to 190°C / 170°fan / gas mk 5.  Grease an 18cm flan tin or pie dish.

Put the fruit, two thirds of the sugar, the butter and cinnamon into a saucepan. Heat gently for 5 mins or until the fruit is soft.

Roll out your pastry and line your pie dish or flan ring with about two thirds of it.  Sprinkle the ground almonds on top and spread the fruit on top of that.  (Because my raspberries were frozen there was a lot of liquid in the pan so I scooped out the fruit and left some of the liquid, which I used later as a sauce.)

Cut the remaining pastry trimming into strips, using a crimper if you have one, and create a lattice on top of the fruit.

Brush the pastry with the egg white and sprinkle with the remaining sugar

Bake for 30 mins 190°C/170°fan/gas mk 5.

Serves 4-6 people.  Delicious served warm with cream.

January 14, 2013



I can remember the very first time I tried moules marinières.  It was at La Rochelle on the west coast of France during an Easter break.  I was rather hesitant about it as I really didn’t fancy them but I was assured by friends that I would love them so I ordered my first plateful and was hooked.

Moules et frites is one of my very favourite dishes to eat when in France and nowadays I enjoy cooking them too.

Nick and I have experimented with various recipes, which is strange considering how simple a dish it is thought to be, but only when we discovered Raymond Blanc’s recipe did we find what is for us the ultimate.  It appears in the book of the “Kitchen Secrets” TV series and you can also see it on the BBC website here.


The prepared mussels and the cooked panful.

Most people seem to think it’s just a matter of chucking the mussels into a pan with cream and wine and putting the lid on.  It is almost that simple but the mix of herbs suggested by Raymond makes a difference, as does his tip about boiling the wine to boil off the alcohol I think.  In any case, this is the recipe we now always use and it never fails to produce perfectly cooked moules.

His other tip about not scrubbing the shells works too.  I have sometimes been served moules that are swimming in an unappetising greyish sauce which I wouldn’t want to eat, even if the moules themselves were delicious.  So no scrubbing but even so, the time spent inspecting and cleaning each one is worthwhile.  This is the bit that takes most of the time as the cooking part takes hardly any time at all.

I wash each one under running water, pull off the bits of “rope” that are called the “beards”, check that the shell is closed and discard any that are open or cracked.  It is just not worth cutting corners I think.  I then rinse them a couple of times more until the water runs clear.  That way I know the sauce is going to look and taste delicious.


Having prepared the mussels the next thing is to set the table because once they are in the pan it’s all systems go and your food will be ready in 3-4 minutes.  If the table is not ready it becomes a mad scramble to get everything together before they go cold and they are not so nice cold.

On the table you will need:

paper napkins – we never bother with finger bowls, just lots of paper to wipe fingers on

a heatproof mat to put the pan of moules on – we usually serve straight from the pan rather than transfer them to a serving dish

a ladle to serve them with

shallow bowls to serve them into – pasta bowls are ideal and better than plates – you want to be able to have lots of sauce on your plate to dip your bread or chips into

a large bowl for the discarded empty shells

forks for the first moule and for your frites

spoons to drink the remaining sauce

bread if you like to eat them with crusty bread

any condiments you might like, such as ketchup or mayo for the frites (apologies to the food police but sometimes I just have to have some)

wine glasses and a nice bottle of chilled white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc

Once the table is set, get all the other bits and pieces ready – the onion and parsley chopped and everything else ready to go in the pan. You will need a very large saucepan or a stockpot for the mussels and a small pan for the wine.  They take only 2-3 minutes to cook and if you overdo them they will be rubbery.  What you want is moules that are just cooked and tender, served steaming hot straight from the pan.


We sometimes just eat ours with bread but without a doubt we like them best with chips - moules et frites.  In fact we have recently bought a deep fat fryer, having never owned one before, and have found that if you get the oil up to temperature you can put your frites in the fryer at about the same time as the mussels go in the pan and they will all be ready at the same time.  Magic !!

Some people will pick each moule out of its shell with a fork but we like to use an empty shell, plucking them out as if you were using a pair of tweezers.  Sometimes you need to use your fork to create that empty shell but usually there are a few moules that have escaped and there are empty shells to choose from.

In UK supermarkets you usually get a quantity of mussels in a net which generally will serve two people as a main course.  If I was buying them loose I would ask for 750g for two people – or this quantity would do four as a starter.


The empties!

Before we discovered how easy it was to cook fresh mussels we used to buy the vacuum packed cooked ones that you simply heat up.  Not any more – there is no comparison with the real thing.


750g or a net of mussels

100ml dry white wine

20g unsalted butter

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 bay leaves

8 sprigs fresh thyme

2tblsp cream

flat leaf parsley,  roughly chopped


Prepare the mussels (see notes above).  Set the table, get the pans and other ingredients ready.  Have your fat fryer hot or your oven chips under way.

Put the wine in a small pan and boil for 30 seconds.

Melt the butter in a large pan over high heat.  Add the onion, bay leaves and thyme and stir.  After 10 seconds add the wine.

Bring back to the boil then add the mussels.  Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 2-3 minutes only.  The mussels are ready when the shells open. 

Remove from the heat, stir in the cream, sprinkle the chopped parsley on top and serve immediately.

Serves 2 people as a main course, 4 as a light lunch or starter.

January 9, 2013


If you have friends or family coming round for coffee and want to bake something lovely but don’t have much time, madeleines are the solution.  They are quick and easy to make, fill the house with the wonderful smell of home baking and look gorgeous.  In fact they are so easy to make that it’s best not to let on – just enjoy them with your friends and then bask in the praise and admiration that follows.


My recipe for madeleines comes from a card I picked up in Waitrose some years ago and you can see the original on the website here.


Unfortunately madeleines are something that you can’t really bake without the proper equipment – a madeleine tin.  I bought mine when they were on offer in Lakeland a few years ago and it was an excellent investment.  This recipe makes exactly the right quantity of mixture to fill just one tin.

I suppose you could at a push use a bun tin and make little flat round cakes – I haven’t tried that myself but don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

madeleines1c They take hardly any time to mix together and only a few minutes to bake.  The whole job takes less than half an hour from the very start to the point where you dust them with a little icing sugar.

madeleines1dThe original recipe uses orange zest to flavour them but I also use lemon zest if that’s all I have in the house and they are just as delicious.  You can of course make them in lots of different flavours – honey, chocolate, ginger – you can just use your imagination and adapt the recipe.

Personally I love the citrus flavours and so I am entering my madeleines into this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted this month by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and alternately Kate at What Kate Baked.  For January the challenge is to bake something with citrus flavours, a lovely idea after the rich stodginess of all the Christmas goodies – which I absolutely love but am ready to leave behind by now.  Something nice and light with a hint of orange or lemon goes down a real treat in January.



The texture is light and fluffy and very moreish.  I don’t think they keep for very long but somehow that doesn’t seem to be an issue – they usually all disappear on the day.


Another good thing about this recipe is that it produces a minimal amount of washing up !!



60g unsalted butter

1 egg

50g caster sugar

50g plain flour

1 orange, zest only, finely grated

icing sugar for dusting


Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°fan.

Melt the butter and measure out 50ml.  Put this on one side to cool.  Brush the holes in a madeleine tin with the remaining butter – there may be some left over that you won’t need.

Put the egg and sugar into a medium bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until the mixture becomes thick and mousse-like.  When you lift the beaters out of the bowl they should leave a definite trail in the mixture.

Sift the flour and fold in gently.  Then fold in the cooled melted butter and the orange zest.

Spoon the mixture into the tin, dividing it as evenly as possible.  Bake for 7-8 minutes until they are light golden brown.

Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Makes 12 madeleines, depending on the size of your tin.

January 3, 2013


The Alphabakes challenge this month is to bake something beginning with the letter “D”, which has reminded me of a cake I made just before Christmas.  The January challenge is organised this time by Caroline of Caroline Makes, or Ros of More than the Occasional baker in other months.

Nick had done some cooking which left half a lime and the best part of a tin of coconut milk that needed using up.  I was wondering if I could make a cake with them and remembered a recipe which was really nice.

double coconut cakeDouble coconut cake.

It was for a cake called “moist coconut cake” and I first spotted it in a lovely blog written by “The Caked Crusader” – you can see the original post here.


I thought it might be nice to soak the coconut in coconut milk instead – which is how I came to call it “double coconut cake”.  The recipe comes from the book produced to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support, called “The little book of treats”.

double coconut cake9 Last year’s coconut cake.

Last time I made the coconut cake, having seen it in CC’s blog, it was for our Children in Need cake stall at work.  I was quite proud of the result and thought it looked rather sophisticated – but it didn’t sell very well.  About half of it was left unsold – not that it went to waste, of course, but I came to the conclusion that coconut is not a favourite with the general public.

double coconut cake2 double coconut cake3

This time I didn’t have the amount of time specified in the recipe to soak the coconut (2 hours) or bake the cake (1½ hours) so I decided to bake it in a smaller tin.  In fact I decided to use my ring mould and mini bundt tins, both of which were presents some time ago and as yet unused.  They should be cooked much quicker, I thought.

double coconut cake4 It worked a treat in the sense that the cakes were done fairly quickly, but the mini bundts were a disaster.  I only had enough mixture for four and three of those stuck to the tin and would not be persuaded to come out in one piece !!

I had greased and floured the tin really well so was rather dischuffed about that.  Maybe the non-stick coating is poor, or maybe the mixture was not suitable for the tin.  Luckily the ring cake came out clean as a whistle.  But it would make me think twice about using the bundt tin again, which is a shame.

Maybe just once more, before I take it to the charity shop!

double coconut cake5I decorated the ring cake with a drizzle of icing made with the juice from the leftover lime and sprinkled on the top some of those cocoa flavoured slivers of coconut that you can buy in sweetshops, called sweet tobacco.  I had never heard of them before so I have the Caked Crusader to thank for the idea.  (Sadly the little sweetshop where I bought them has since closed.)

double coconut cake6 I wanted the small cakes to send as a gift that morning (hence the urgency) so I did a crafty bit of repair work and made two cakes from the four damaged ones.  With a bit of trimming and some icing to disguise the joins, they looked ok.  I just hope they didn’t each fall into two halves as soon as the recipient picked one up to eat it !! 

double coconut cake8Can you spot the join?

double coconut cake7

The cake was lovely and moist, with a nice hint of lime in the icing, and it was still just as good to eat a couple of days later.  Definitely one for coconut lovers and I will certainly be making it again myself.

I’m not quite sure what timing to suggest as mine were done in 30 minutes whereas the recipe states 1¼ hours for a normal cake.  Obviously the answer is to use the tin you fancy and your discretion as to when it might be done – check after 30 minutes and keep your eye on it.


50g desiccated coconut

150ml coconut milk

110g soft margarine or spreadable butter

250g caster sugar

2 eggs

250g self raising flour

pinch of salt


Soak the coconut in the milk for at least 2 hours (I soaked  mine for 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 170°C / 150°fan / gas mk 3.  Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.  (I used a 20cm ring mould, greased and floured, plus four mini bundt moulds.)

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix gently until combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin(s) and level the top.  Bake for 1½ hours for the normal cake or 30-40 minutes for the smaller cakes.

Drizzle some icing made with icing sugar and the juice of half a lime and decorate with toasted coconut, flaked almonds or “sweet tobacco” if you like.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.