Chocolate Biscuit Cake

We used to call this dark and luscious chocolate cake Tiffin, others called it Refrigerator Cake.  Ever since Prince William used it as his Groom Cake at his wedding it is now more commonly known as Chocolate Biscuit Cake. Apparently the Princes William and Harry used to have it (and even helped make it) when they were very young.

There are lots of variations to this, the authentic “Royal version” as made by Carolyn Robb so don’t worry if you prefer dried cherries, sultanas or apricots to the figs, or shortbread or rich tea biscuits to the digestives.  You can also use pecans, almonds or macadamia nuts instead of pistachios or if nut allergic just use more biscuit.  Talking of allergies if you are gluten intolerant there are really good gluten free stem ginger cookies that go really well with this – particularly when you use soft dried apricots as the fruit element.  You can also dress this cake up by decorating it with a thin layer of melted dark/milk/white chocolate after the cake has set and then embellish it with maltesers or even chocolate mini eggs! Or do as I have here and crush the mini eggs and lightly roll in.  If you are in the USA and find golden syrup difficult to get you can use corn syrup though this makes the cake slightly softer

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Rich Beef and Onion Stew with Fluffy Parsley Dumplings

On a cold day there can be few things better than a rich beef stew with onions and carrots and served with fluffy parsley dumplings.   Warming and comforting and very, very tasty yet all cooked up in the one pot.  How good is that?

The stars of the show are the dumplings  I have to admit that I’ve only taken to making/eating these recently.  I don’t know why but for some reason I remember dumplings as solid things that’s tasted leaden and fatty.  Hah!  These are nothing of the sort and I now realise why every country seems to have its version of dumplings.  From  Italian gnocchi to Chinese dim sum   They are all delicious and a source of national pride and the British have just as much reason to be proud of parsley dumplings  Yum!

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Espresso Creme Brûlée

Break through the thin caramel layer and dive into the smooth and silky espresso spiked creme custard underneath.  Simple and elegant this is like the best coffee and best pudding you’ve ever had combined and is the perfect end to a meal.

I used to think that you could never beat the classic vanilla Creme Brûlée but I have to put this on an equal standing and believe me I don’t say that lightly!  I like to serve this in small coffee cups as I think it looks great.  Don’t use really fine porcelain ones as they need to be able to go into the oven without cracking, but if you are worried use ramekins instead.  You can make the creme several days in advance (Stage 11) and finish them off by just before serving which makes this an easy entertaining dessert

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Traybake Shortbread and Variations

I love Shortbread as it is but I also love it with different flavourings added such as earl grey, lavender, chocolate or fennel.  These flavourings can act as shortbread’s fairy godmother and dress it up so everyone can see how beautiful it really is.  Just add them in the final mixing.

Rich and buttery shortbread that crumbles into your mouth is brilliant with a cup of tea or coffee. My grandfather used to love it as an accompaniment to a wee dram of whisky whilst as children we had it with a glass of milk.  The basic recipe is a wonderful thing.  Sadly in today’s times it’s often overlooked in favour of more exciting looking biscuits but maybe these variations will make you think again

Traybaked Shortbread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Traybake Meatballs with Kale in Tomato Sauce

I always used to be worried about eating kale   The only times I had eaten it, it had been a bit tough and squeaked on my teeth   I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about   It may be a superfood but it wasn’t very palatable and, according to my parents, it was something that was only given to farm animals.  I stuck to spinach and cabbage. How wrong I was to limit myself!

 

Now I know how to prepare and use it there is no more squeaking and I use it in so many ways though my favourite way is when it is eaten with pasta, either as part of a sauce or, as it is here, in a meatball.  In fact, these meatballs are a great way to introduce kids to kale as it isn’t obvious. Continue reading

Rhubarb and Ginger Queen of Puddings

It’s hard to think of a better pudding to have for Sunday Lunch.  Unashamedly old fashioned, Queen of Puddings here is given a seasonal twist by using fresh rhubarb and syrupy stem ginger instead of jam   There is something intensively satisfying about soft, creamy custard thickened with crumbs topped with rhubarb and ginger and finished off with toasty meringue  It has some of the best elements of favourite puddings – creme brûlée, iles flotantes, lemon meringue pie and rhubarb and custard  it’s a real winner

There seems to be various stories around how this pudding got its name. Perhaps it was because Queen Victoria remarked on it on a trip to Manchester (it was previously called Manchester pudding apparently). Maybe it’s because the meringue looked like a crown when piped on top. Nobody seems to know for sure so you can choose! Continue reading

Aubergine and Feta Involtini

Griddled aubergine wraps itself around salty feta spiked with mint, baked with tomatoes and topped with melted mozzarella  Yum!

Involtini just means little bundle in Italian; it can be used to describe meat wrapped variations too.  This vegetarian version is a simple dish to make but one I cook time and time again  I find that even people who have issues with the texture of aubergines like them cooked this way as the tomato and mint cut through it.   I particularly love the bursts of sweetness from the raisins and the creaminess of the pinenuts in the filling that are reminders to me of holidays in Sicily and Venice   Involtini makes a great comfort food dish for Meat Free Mondays  I also like the fact you can make it family sized by cooking it in a large dish or make it in individual dishes  – whichever suits Continue reading

Iced Stem Ginger Cake

I love ginger and this is one of my absolute favourite cakes alongside Grasmere Gingerbread (which is more of a cross between a cake and a biscuit) and Catherine’s Sticky Ginger Cake (which is dark and delicious).  This cake is wonderful in the run up to spring with its tangy lemon icing topping a soft spiced sponge studded with amber jewels of exotic stem ginger.  A piece of this cake – especially with a cup of tea – is guaranteed to make life seem better and fill you with thoughts of bright spring days to come.  I always think of a jug filled with daffodils and an old fashioned teapot sitting beside a plate of these on the kitchen table!

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Blood Orange Curd and Icecream

January/February is the time of year for blood oranges – so called because of the colour of their flesh.  The intensity of the colour when you cut into them varies greatly as you can see from the photo.  But no matter what the colour turns out to be blood oranges have a wonderfully concentrated vibrant flavour and are a joy to use in many different dishes

This particular recipe uses blood oranges as a seasonal variation to lemon curd.  It’s such a shame that fruit curds seem to have gone out of fashion – bring them back I say!  Curds are an easy thing to make and ideal for getting the kids involved  They taste great slathered on toast or used as a filling for a sponge cake or a topping for a cheesecake.  If you want to make lemon curd or passion fruit curd go to end of post to see the list of ingredients for these curds and follow the same method as below Continue reading

Oxtail Stew with Pappardelle and Parmesan

Oxtail Stew is lip-smackingly tasty. Rich, unctuous gravy and meat that has fallen off the bones.  It’s a dish that’s ideal to put together and leave simmering in a low oven or slow cooker in tomatoes and wine in the morning and come home to hours later.  The oven having done all the work needed to transform it.  This isn’t a fancy dish – it’s proper peasant food.

I love to serve the oxtail  tossed through thick ribbons of pappardelle (you could substitute tagliatelle if you prefer) and grate Parmesan over the top but it’s just as delicious with creamy mashed potato and spring greens.  Leftovers can be transformed into oxtail soup the next day with the addition of some more water to thin it to the right consistency.

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