Monday, 19 September 2011


Oh my word, I've just discovered the Batter Butty!  It's something so bad and so good at the same time.  When you read the recipe everything  will scream blocked arteries and high cholesterol but I'm a firm believer that you can have the bad things as long as that's not all you're eating - everything in moderation.

So, basically the Batter butter is a jam sandwich deep fried in batter - I told you it was bad.  I've tried to posh mine up a bit and used brioche rolls and added slices of fresh strawberry.

The picture says it all really, it's pretty simple.  Make your sandwich, don't butter it and put jam on both sides to help it stick together.  Add a layer of thinly sliced strawberry and sandwich it together.

Dip the whole think in batter and deep fry.  I made my batter with one egg and 5 tbsp of plain flour.  Stir them both together till the egg is incorporated then gradually add milk till you get the consistency you're happy with.  I used about 1/2 pt.  You want it to be the thickness of pancake batter.

It takes only a minute to cook, once it is, sit it briefly on kitchen paper then serve still warm with a sprinkle of icing sugar.  It's like a lovely fresh doughnut.

I can hear Elvis saying "thank you very much"

Sunday, 18 September 2011


What is it about Faggots that you can't actually say them without an exclamation mark!  I first had them when I left home and had to fend for myself.  'Brains' Faggots they were and I thought they were made from brains hence the name, I'm not entirely convinced  they didn't mind you.  Anyhoo, my love of offal has not waned and I recently saw faggots selling in a butchers in Bath.  I'd not thought of making them myself before but I'm glad I did, they're de-lish, like a meatball only softer but not mushy like to aforementioned  faggot of the cerebral variety.

Now, you have 3 choices when it comes to mincing your offal (not very often you get to use that sentence!)  Get your butcher to do it, if you have a mincer do it yourself or just stick it in your food processor but be careful not to get it too mushy, you still want a bit of texture.

We had ours with onion gravy and squashed potatoes.  Squashed potatoes if you're interested are new or salad spuds, boiled then put in a roasting tin and 'squashed' slightly with a fork or masher.  You just want to crack them open a little. drizzle a little oil on and sprinkle with salt flakes and caraway seeds.  Roast these at the same time as the faggots.

  • 1 Onion chopped finely
    220g Minced Pigs Liver
    3 Lambs Hearts Trimmed of fat and chopped into chunks
    400g Belly Pork Trimmed of fat and rind and chopped into chunks
    1/2 tsp Mace
    1 tsp Allspice
    30g Fresh Chives snipped
    15g Fresh Sage snipped
    1 egg
    130g Fresh Bread Crumbs
    Salt & Pepper

    2 Red Onions
     Sprigs Fresh Thyme
    2 tbsp Oil
    3 tbsp Flour
    1 Glass Red Wine
    1 1/2 pt Fresh Stock
    1 tbsp Red Currant Jelly

    Basically everything goes in together and gets a good mix either in your mixer or by hand.  When it's all combined form it into balls, I made 24 using an ice cream scoop to measure even quantities.  Roll them lightly in your hand to form the shape and chill in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up a little.

    Once chilled, roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 170C.

    I made the gravy by roasting the onions chopped into chunks with the fresh thyme drizzled with oil. Cook for about 30 minutes then sprinkle with flour and stir it in till it coats the onion.  Put your pan on the hob and add a glass of red wine (I keep left overs in the freezer for things like this) heat it through till it starts to bubble, you want to cook off the alcohol but keep the flavour.  Now add your stock and the red currant jelly and stir till it thickens.

    Once the faggots are cooked, pour the gravy over them and return them to the oven for 10 minutes before serving..  

Enough for another day and in a foil tray just like 'Mr Brains'

Saturday, 17 September 2011


It's National Cupcake Week! - there's a week for everything isn't there. Personally I don't need an official week, any excuse to get the piping bag out.

These are Raspberry Cupcakes.  Pink vanilla sponge, scoop out a little hole once cooked and fill with a teaspoon of raspberry jam then top with italian meringue. Yum.

Thursday, 15 September 2011


Well, week four was pie week, one I looked forward to but with slight trepidation.  I do like to make pies but not puff or flakey pastry.  I remember being asked at one of the interviews for GBBO2 if I made puff pastry.  I was honest and said that I had made it (at school in Home Economics) but I don't because basically life is too short when you can buy perfectly good stuff in the supermarket.  I have to say, Mary agreed!

Don't get me wrong, I make my own short crust and sweet pastry but puff takes a lot of time and effort which I just don't really have.

I made a fish pie which was one of the few recipes I didn't develop for the show - it is something I make regularly for my family and have done for years.  I think what makes it special is the addition of saffron and substituting boiled eggs for quails eggs.  Quails eggs taste just the same but look really cute.  You can put them in whole as well which means the yolk doesn't become separate.

This is enough to feed my family of five or 7 children

 I still get a kick out of having my recipes on the BBC Food website, how cool is that!?
Meringue pie is also a favourite with us but for the show it had to be made in a 12" tin and trying to get that amount of liquid to set was never going to be easy.  I think everyone had issues with it apart from Mary-Ann who always goes large and in fact I seem to remember hers was even bigger, you go girl!

I'm sure the nation was questioning why no-one did good old Lemon Meringue, I agree, you can't improve on perfection, unfortunately the programme makers requested an alternative flavour.  I chose a peach and raspberry meringue pie.  Peaches and raspberries are a classic combination and I thought the colours would stand out.

Remember this recipe is for a 12" pie!

200g Plain Flour
50g Sugar
100g Butter
Ice Water
1 Egg
4 x Tins Peach Halves in Juice
8 Egg Yolks
4 tblsp Corn flour
240g Sugar
450g Raspberries
100g Sugar
4 Egg whites
600g Sugar
8 tblsp Water

 Make your pastry.  Mix the flour, sugar and butter in an electric mixer till you have a crumb then combine with water to form the dough.
Roll out the pastry on parchment and line your baking tin.  Chill for 30 minutes.  Next bake the pastry blind for 15 minutes at 160c.  Remove the baking beans, brush the pastry with egg white and bake for a further 10 minutes at 140c

In a saucepan melt 100g sugar with 150g Raspberries.  Pass through a sieve to remove seeds and leave liquid to chill in fridge.

Whizz the peaches in a processor till smooth then pass through a sieve. Now warm them in a saucepan.
Combine the egg yolks, corn flour and sugar and add to the peaches in the saucepan.  Stir the peach mixture till it thickens and pour into your pastry shell.

Scatter remaining raspberries over the peach custard.

Whisk the eggs whites, sugar and water over boiling water with an electric mixer till thick and glossy.
Fold some of the raspberry syrup through the meringue. Top pie with meringue and stir through more of the raspberry syrup.  Bake at 140c for 30 minutes.

I have enjoyed re-creating the recipes from the show but I'm enjoying baking things just because I want to.  I made enough  pastry for extra pies - always make more that you need if you're going to all that effort, it can be frozen for another day.

I made these Turkey, Bacon & Leek Pot Pies.  My children love having a pie all to themselves, they feel very grown up, I just don't put as much filling in for them.

I used 375g Turkey Steaks cooked in a little oil. I then added 6 rashers of Streaky Bacon.  Remove them from the pan and cook 1 large leek.  I cut it down the middle then cut each one down the middle again and sliced it thinly.  Once the leeks are soft add them to the turkey and bacon.

Now use the same pan to make a roux with 75g Butter and 75g Plain Flour.  Melt the butter then stir in the flour, once they form a doughy ball slowly add 1 pint of Chicken Stock.  Add it a little at a time continuously stirring to form a gravy.  Make this as thick or thin as you like, you may not need all the stock.  Next return the meat, leeks and any juices to the pan and combine them all. You can season it now with Salt and Pepper but be careful with the salt as even good stocks can sometimes be quite salty

Fill your ramekins or pie dish and top with the pastry, brush with an egg wash and bake for 25-30 minutes at 200C.

You can make the filling ahead and freeze it if you like.  I make the pot pies, put the lids on and freeze them ready for the oven.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Perfect Weekend

I've just had the loveliest weekend, baking, seeing friends and being out and about with my family.  It almost sounds too perfect doesn't it.  I'm not saying this happens every weeekend so when it does I feel compelled to tell everyone.

My eldest son is a keen cook and for his birthday I got him a 'proper' cook book.  He's 11 now and outgrown those children's ones that teach you to make smiley face pizza and fish shaped fish cakes although I am rather partial to both.  He has decided to make dinner at least once a week (fine by me) and started this week with a goats cheese frittata and a chocolate mousse cake.  Both were a success and I can't wait for his next culinary achievement 

Chocolate Mousse Cake with a shortbread base

We spent Sunday in Formby, just north of Liverpool and had a grand time searching for Red Squirrels at the National Trust Squirrel Reserve.  Then I met with my pal Janet from GBBO 2.  She's as lovely as ever, just like old times.  It's such a shame that the friendship and comradery between all the contestants does not really come across on the show, but we're all still in touch and still laughing together.  

Now, it's Sunday and what happens today? - cake and Little House on the Prarie.  It's been a tradition since I made a new years resolution a couple of years ago that we should all sit down together to have tea and cake on a Sunday.  Last year for christmas I got a box set of  Little H' on the P' and it has become an integral part of this ritual.

Todays cake was a bit retro purely because it included glace cherries.  I'm not that enamoured with them but onced chopped and added to ground almonds they're not half bad.  Glace cherries have a tendency to sink to the bottom of cakes when baking.  The trick is to give them a good rinse under a tap, pat them dry, coat in a little flour then add them to your mix.

150g Glace Cherries chopped, washed and floured
250g Self Raising Flour
200g Sunflower Margarine
180g Sugar
3 Eggs
1/2 tsp Almond Essence
100g Ground Almonds
4 tbsp Milk

Heat the oven to 160C Fan.

Put everything apart from the cherries in a free standing mixer and mix well.  If you're doing it by hand, cream the butter and sugar, then add the flour, eggs and almond essence.  Next add the ground almonds then when it's all combined add the cherries. If you've used a mixer fold the cherries in by had as they can get a little smooshed by the whisk.

Pour into a lined baking tin.  Mine measured  25cm  x 19cm, then bake for 35-40 minutes, turning round after the first 20 minutes to get a nice even bake.

I've covered mine with icing sugar mixed with lemon juice then topped with cherries for that proper 70's cake shop look but you could also have it warm with a bit of custard (or evap Sean say's)

Friday, 9 September 2011


Well, I'm sure by now that most of you will have seen the car crash that were my Macarons on week four of 'The Bake Off'  If you haven't, just move along, nothing to see here, keep going.

I was always dreading getting as far as week four because of Macarons, what's wrong with good old fashioned coconut macaroons with rice paper on the bottom, I like those and the image they conjur up of Mrs Overall from 'Acorn Antiques' carrying a wonky tray laden with said delights.

No it had to be the french one's for 'The Great British Bake Off!'  I must have made thousands of them I kid you not, but could I get the hang of the darn things.  Perhaps I'm not precise or literal enough and my Macarons got a little lost in translation. I've never claimed to have any finess when it came to fiddly things and they're not something you can freestyle with, alter something slightly and you're stuffed.  I like to be able to add a little of my personality to by baking, a little heart but maybe my heart was just not in it, I don't know but what ever the reason, it was never going to happen for me.

My flavours however, did win them over, Paul really liked the coconut and pineapple and Sue thought that the chocolate and lime were in her top 3 favourite bakes from both series, so I did get something right.

Coconut & Pineapple
Coffee & Walnut
Chocolate & Lime

The Pistachio & Chocolate Biscotti also went down well, Paul said he would have liked more nuts (I'm saying nothing!) but the bake was perfect and Mary said I'd been very clever for getting it so right. They have also now given me my first ever credit on the BBC Food website, Woohoo, it's like having my name in lights and makes me grin broadly.

90G Plain Flour
½ tsp Baking Powder
55g Sugar
35g Pistachios
20g Dark Chocolate Chips
1 Egg
½ tsp Vanilla paste

Preheat oven to 160C.  Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix well to form a dough.
Knead dough on a floured surface till smooth.
Shape into a log on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Bake for 25 minutes.
Allow to cool.  Cut into thin slices.  Place slices onto baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes till crisp.

In these I've used half pistachios and half hazelnuts along with chocolate chips.  You can add all sorts to change the flavours.  Use different nuts, macadamia, pecan, almond or dried fruits such as cherries, blueberries and cranberries.  If you want add flavours like coffee, orange or cinnamon there are no limits.

I'm off to make some coconut macaroons now, where's the rice paper?