July 27, 2013


chicken with lemon1

This recipe is based on one from Rachel Allen’s book “Rachel’s Food for Living”.  It’s a very easy recipe and a lovely, simple way to cook chicken.  In her recipe you add the empty lemon halves to the dish after you have squeezed out the juice.  You can see a version of it here.

chicken with lemon2

Chicken thighs are great for a quick, easy and hearty dinner.  They are cooked and on the table in under an hour and form the basis of so many tasty recipes.

This time I adapted Rachel’s recipe slightly and decided to use a large sprig of lemon balm from the garden instead of the empty lemon halves.  I also added a few shallots.

chicken with lemon3

I like this version best I think.  Once the chicken is cooked you thicken the sauce by boiling it for a while then either serve it separately or pour it back over the chicken, which is what I did. 

I will definitely be doing it this way again.

We had ours with some fresh broad beans from the garden and some quinoa. 


4 chicken thighs, or a pack of mixed thighs and drumsticks

2 lemons, juice only

2 tblsp (or two good long squirts) of runny honey

6 shallots, peeled

2 sprigs rosemary

1 sprig lemon balm


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.

Put the chicken pieces in a baking dish or roasting tin, skin side up.  Add the shallots and season with salt and pepper.

Mix the lemon juice and honey together in a bowl and pour over the chicken.  Add the rosemary and lemon balm and bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the chicken is nicely browned and cooked through.

Drain off the liquid into a small pan and keep the chicken warm.  Boil the liquid until thickened slightly.  Pour back over the chicken or serve separately as a sauce.

Serves 4.

July 24, 2013


baked eggsDom’s Random Recipe Challenge this month is to bake the recipe on page 30 of cookbook number 30 on your bookcase.  You can see the details here.  I counted mine out and turned up a recipe for baked eggs in the recent book “John Whaite Bakes”.  This is the charming young man who won the Great British Bake Off last year.


This book is very much in the style of modern cookbooks, each recipe having its own little story as an introduction and with lots of photos of the author, looking very handsome, nibbling a biscuit, holding a mug, walking down an alley of factory buildings holding half a baguette………..somehow I find it all slightly unnecessary.  I blame Nigella – she started it, I seem to remember, and now they all do it.  Except for Delia, who doesn’t seem to need to.  It’s the celebrity thing, I suppose. 

Having said all that, this really is a lovely book.  The photos are beautiful  and there’s one for most of the recipes – something I appreciate as it is helpful to see what the finished dish should look like.  There are lots of fabulous recipes to try and they are clearly written. 

And – at the risk of revealing here another little bee from my bonnet – at least the food isn’t presented on grotty, grubby, chipped and cracked old crockery that I personally would have thrown out long ago.  This is another cookbook fashion that I really don’t understand.  Shabby chic is one thing, well used and well worn favourite crockery is another, but chipped, cracked dishes, rusty tins and tea-stained tea cloths – no thanks !!

Maybe it’s just me or it’s my age.  I’m now at the age where I can conveniently blame all sorts of things on my age and people accept it – turning 60 and gradually becoming a batty old lady is beginning to seem like fun after all !!

baked eggs2

The nice thing about this recipe is that it is so simple you hardly need a recipe at all.  My mum used to make these for Sunday tea.  They were exactly the same except that she would never have used herbs and made them in a large Pyrex dish for the four of us.  We would have ours with a slice of toast and a few baked beans on the side. ( John apparently has his with some sourdough or freshly baked foccacia!)

To make cheesy baked eggs:

Preheat the oven to 170°C / 160°fan / gas mk 3.

For each person, butter a large ramekin and drop two eggs into it.  Add a tablespoon of cream or milk, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with a few leaves of thyme.  (I omitted the thyme as it’s growing in the garden and we were in the middle of a thunderstorm, it was chucking it down and I couldn’t be bothered to fetch my mac and wellies.)

Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 12-14 minutes if you like your eggs slightly runny, a little longer if you like them hard.  Serve hot with toast, or just on their own.

July 20, 2013


I was really pleased with the regular version of this cake which I made a few weeks ago.  You can see the post here.  I liked the contrast between the sweetness of the coffee sponge and the sharpness of the blackcurrant jam.  So when I was deciding what kind of cake to make for my friend Elizabeth’s birthday I settled on a gluten free version of the same thing. gluten free coffee, almond and blackcurrant cake2I adapted a Victoria sponge recipe from “The gluten free baker” by Hannah Miles, replacing the vanilla essence with instant espresso coffee dissolved in a little water.

gluten free coffee, almond and blackcurrant cake3 I filled it with whipped cream flavoured with more coffee and sweetened with icing sugar, plus a layer of blackcurrant jam, then decorated with some water icing and birthday candles.

gluten free coffee, almond and blackcurrant cake4I used this recipe last year to make the cherry Bakewell cake, which you can read about here.  It produced a lovely moist and light cake and it’s proved to be a very useful, reliable and adaptable recipe.

Anyone who finds the combination of coffee and blackcurrant a strange idea could of course just omit the jam – it’s definitely not to everyone’s taste – but we like it.  And you could easily replace the cream filling with regular coffee buttercream.

This year I was baking in a heatwave so there was no problem with getting the butter to soften – just leaving it out of the fridge for an hour did the trick.  The only problem was in transporting it on bendy roads for 50 minutes – the top layer started to slide off the bottom layer as we rounded a bend but a gentle shove was all that was needed to replace it!


For the cake

185g softened butter

185g caster sugar

4 eggs

200g ground almonds

125g gluten free self raising flour

¼tsp gluten free baking powder

150ml crème fraîche

2tsp instant espresso powder, dissolved in a little boiling water

For the filling and icing

3 tblsp blackcurrant jam

150ml double cream or crème entière

4 tblsp icing sugar

½tsp espresso powder, dissolved in a little of the cream

sugar crystals, sugar flowers and candles to decorate


Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°fan/gas mk 4. Grease and base line 2 x 20cm sponge tins.

Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat or whisk until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time and beat well with each addition.

Add the other cake ingredients and fold in gently until evenly combined.

Divide between the two tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cakes are firm and golden and pass the skewer test. Remove from the oven, turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Whip the cream until firm and spreadable. Add the coffee powder and one tablespoon of icing sugar and blend in.  Spread the jam onto the base of one of the sponges.  Invert the other sponge onto a cake plate or stand and spread the whipped cream onto it.  Invert the jammy one on top.

Sift the rest of the icing sugar into a bowl and add water, a teaspoon at a time, and mix together until a runny icing is formed.

Spoon the icing onto the top of the cake, spread out evenly, allowing to drip down the sides if you like.  Decorate with birthday candles, sugar crystals, sugar flowers and anything else you fancy!

Cuts into 10-12 slices. Keep refrigerated because of the fresh cream.

July 6, 2013


Financiers are lovely little cakes to make when you want to rustle something up in a hurry.  There is no creaming of butter and sugar, just melting of butter and a light whisking of egg whites and they’re done almost as soon as you have finished washing up the baking dishes!

strawberry and lemon friandsFriands and financiers are pretty much the same cake, just a different shape.  The traditional friand tin produces oval shaped cakes and a financier tin produces oblong cakes.

This time I made strawberry and lemon financiers, using my recipe for blueberry and lemon friands, which you can find on the BBC Good Food website here.  Instead of the blueberries I just placed some sliced strawberries on top and because I was in my little French kitchen I used the financier mould I bought in the cookware section of a French supermarket (I think it was Intermarché).

strawberry and lemon friands3

alphabakes The little cakes are perfect for this month’s Alphabakes challenge,  an event organised by Caroline of Caroline Makes and Ros of The more than occasional baker, which is to bake something including the letter “F”.

strawberry and lemon friands2

They also slip very nicely into this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge, the monthly event run by Kate of What Kate Baked and, this month, by Karen of Lavender and Lovage.  July being the month for fruit we are asked for something baked with fresh fruit.  You can see the details here.

Tea_Time_Treatrs_logoThis is one of those very handy, very adaptable recipes which I have used time and again.  You don’t need to use a friand or financier tin - the cakes turn out perfectly alright baked in an ordinary muffin tin.

Strawberry and lemon financiers.


100g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

125g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

25g plain flour

85g ground almonds

3 medium egg whites

1 unwaxed lemon, grated rind only

4-5 strawberries, sliced


Preheat the oven to 200ºC / 180ºfan. Generously butter a friand, financier or muffin tin.

Melt the butter and set aside to cool.

Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl.  Add the almonds and, using your fingers, mix everything together.

Whisk the egg whites until they make a light, floppy foam. Make a well in the dry ingredients, tip in the egg whites and lemon rind. Add the melted butter and lightly stir to make a soft batter.

Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and arrange the sliced strawberries on top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until light golden brown and firm to the touch.

Cool in the tins for 5 minutes. Then turn out and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Makes 8 financiers (or 6-8 friands, depending on the tin).

July 2, 2013


smoked haddock tart1 We are on a mission to use up the contents of our freezer at the moment.

I’m not sure why this is.  Maybe it’s the time of year when we instinctively want to make space for the glut of home-grown vegetables due to arrive in the next few weeks.  Sadly there is not much sign of that happening at the moment.

Our runner beans didn’t germinate and never came up.  We replaced them with some bought climbing green bean plants but they haven’t grown any more at all, they just sit there sulking, waiting for the sun and warmth to perk them up.

We planted out two rows of peas and days later they were nibbled down to stalks by either rabbits or pigeons.  We replaced them last weekend and in spite of taking reasonable precautions the same thing has happened again.  I think this is the point where I admit defeat and resign myself to buying our peas and beans in Sainsbury’s this year.  At least the broad beans are looking promising and the tomato plants are flowering in the greenhouse.

smoked haddock tart2 smoked haddock tart3

Anyway, we are gradually working our way through the contents of the freezer and pulling out UFO’s (unidentified frozen objects) on a daily basis.  Yesterday I found a bag containing some smoked haddock, probably not enough to do much with, so I fished out a small pack of frozen raw prawns as well.  In the fridge there was half a bag of spinach, looking slightly past its best, and part of a bag of the highly despised ready grated parmesan cheese (brought back from our last visit to France).  So I went hunting for a recipe to do something with them.

I bought “The Art of the Tart” in a charity shop a few years ago and confess I have barely opened it.  But in it I found a recipe using smoked haddock and watercress that looked interesting – and easily adaptable for the ingredients I wanted to use.

smoked haddock tart4

The author describes this as an “everyday tart”.  I presume this is because the filling is made like a white sauce, rather than consisting of lots of eggs and cream. smoked haddock tart5

My piece of smoked haddock had been in the freezer well beyond the time it should normally be kept frozen but it seemed absolutely fine when it was thawed.  The prawns were uncooked, peeled prawns so when they were thawed I cooked them in butter before adding to the tart.

I have to say, there was nothing particularly everyday about the finished tart.  It was absolutely delicious. 

We had ours with new potatoes and an assortment of veg, principally the remainder of the bag of spinach and the other bits and pieces lurking in the fridge.  But it was good enough to serve to guests and would make a lovely starter with some salad, or a nice lunch.  Definitely a recipe I will be using again.

I am entering the recipe into this month’s “No waste food challenge”, organised by Kate from Turquoise Lemons.  This month’s title is “freezer stash” and is presented  by Elizabeth’s Kitchen.  You can see the details here.


For the pastry:

6oz plain flour

2oz Trex or other white fat

1oz butter

For the filling:

250g smoked haddock, dyed or undyed

100g cooked, peeled prawns

300ml milk

1 tblsp plain flour

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 stick of celery, washed, trimmed and finely chopped

salt, pepper and nutmeg for seasoning

Flora Cuisine, or olive oil, or butter, for frying

a few handfuls of spinach, washed and roughly chopped

2 eggs, beaten

a sprinkling of parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 190°C / 170° fan / gas mk 5.  Grease a 22cm / 9” flan tin or dish.

Make the pastry as usual.  Line the dish, prick the base with a fork, add baking parchment and baking beans and bake blind for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, remove the beans, brush the base with a little of the beaten egg and return to the oven for 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, put the smoked haddock in a saucepan with the milk, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Strain the fish and reserve the milk.  Remove the skin and any bones from the fish and flake into a bowl.  Set aside.

Heat the Flora, oil or butter in another medium saucepan and cook the onion and celery until softened.  Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the reserved milk and heat gently, stirring, until the sauce has thickened.  Season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg.  Remove from the heat.

Add the eggs, fish, prawns and spinach to the pan and stir until combined.  Spread the mixture into the pastry case, sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Serve warm.

Serves 4-6 good portions.

(Apologies for the mixture of metric and imperial measurements.  I always make my pastry from scratch in ounces but follow recipes in grams.)