Saturday, 29 October 2011


Now then, I know I'm not the only one out there who is enjoying the current TV scheduling.  In fact, there's so much good tv at the moment I'm having problems with things clashing.  Added to this dilemma of what to watch is the what to eat issue.

They say it is better for you if you eat earlier in the day rather than late at night so I do this but truth be told it's so I can have a little smakeral of something whilst settling infront of Downton, Spooks, XFactor, Strictly......the list goes on.  I'm at the point now that I'm planning my snacks for next weeks episode at the end of this weeks!

The chosen treat for Downton this week was something I'm sure Mrs Patmore would have approved of. Mini BLT's.  It's pretty obvious really, it's just what it say's on the tin - Bread brushed with olive oil and griddled, pinned together with Parma Ham, L & T  There was also some mayo going on in there or even - a real guilty pleasure salad cream but ssh, don't tell anyone x

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


I'm loving Halloween and Autumn and crunchy leaves and orange and gold and soup and snuggling in my dressing gown.  Autumn was always my mothers favourite time of year and I never really got it, but it was the colours she loved and the low sun you get now makes them look spectacular.

Soon we shall have the aroma of bonfires, I love that smell, like incense filling the air but first we have halloween and all the excitement that comes with it.  

We all enjoy carving pumpkins in our house so with 5 of us we end up with a lot of pumpkin to eat.  There is the usual pie and soup, then we have it fried with shrimps and spices and now we have bread.  

I have to admit that the flavour wasn't particularly strong but it does give it a warm yellow ochre colour.

Pumpkin has a very high water content so you need to avoid adding anymore to it.  I steam mine to cook
it before I puree it in the blender.

Wash the seeds, dry them and use them on your bread or stick them on a baking tray sprinkled with a little peri peri seasoning and roast at 180 C for 20 minutes.  Once they are cool they will be crisp and a good snack.

600g Strong Bread Flour
30g Butter
10g Salt
15g Yeast
200g Pumpkin Puree
100g Water
100g Milk

Add the Butter to the flour and rub it in as you would with pastry, once it has disappeared into the flour stir in the salt and yeast.

Next add the wet ingredients.  You can do this by hand or in a mixer.  I tend to start it off in the mixer and once it's all combined I knead it by hand.  You should have a fairly wet but manageable dough.  To help it stop sticking when kneading, drizzle a little oil onto the surface.  Try not to add flour as this will give you a tougher dough.  The softer your dough, the softer your bread will be.

Dust your hands with flour and knead, stretching the dough, for a good ten minutes.  You will feel it become more elastic as you work.

Leave your dough to prove in a large bowl covered with a  t-towel for 1-1 1/2 hours somewhere warm and draft free.  It will double in size, I always get so excited when I go back to it and it has grown to fill the bowl.

Now knock the dough back by punching the air out or kneading it back to it's original size.  Form the dough into the shape you want your loaf on a baking sheet or stone.  I made a small loaf with half and 10 rolls in a brioche tin.  Leave it to rise again for another hour.  Use a sharp knife to score a pattern on your loaf then bake at 200 C for 30-40 minutes.

To check if it's cooked, you can tap the underneath of your bread, if it sounds hollow it is done.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011


This baking malarky has taken over my life somewhat of late so with HALLOWEEEEEN just around the corner it's been nice to get back to being a bit crafty.

Here is my Pumpkin Pinata made using an extra large balloon and good old papier mache.  I've stuck on 5 layers of news paper using a flour and water paste.  The paste should be the consistency of thick double cream (can't get away from food here). Leave the knot of the balloon poking out and once the pumpkin has dried - over night, and is hard, pop the balloon and remove it from the middle.

Fill your pumpkin with lots of goodies then seal the hole with more papier mache.  Add fringed strips of tissue paper on the outside.  Finish it off with a classic pumpkin face and Jack's your uncle!

Monday, 24 October 2011


I made these slices for Aubergine Cafe - West Kirby this week.  I've used a recipe with oil rather than butter or margarine and it gives it a soft light sponge.  But it's the feathered chocolate top that makes it something I'd choose to have with my milk shake. 


We love sausages in our house but sometimes I want something more than just bangers and mash but just as simple to make.

This tart always goes down well and can be eaten hot or cold.  It's good for lunch or supper and is easy to transport for picnics.  It freezes well too.  I have used cumberland sausages because that's what I like but you could use which ever you prefer.  Fancy it up a bit if you want and use toulouse or wild boar sausages.  I do suggest that you use good quality sausages though as others can be very fatty and although the bread crumbs soak up some fat, you could end up with an oil slick on top.

You don't have to make your own pastry but you really should.  It's not hard and much cheaper than the bought stuff.

200g Plain Flour
75g Sunflower Margarine
25g White Fat (Cookeen)
Cold Water to Combine

1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 Large Leek
8 Fresh Sage Leaves
454g Cumberland Sausages (1 Pack of 8)
100g Fresh White Bread Crumbs
1 Egg
Honey to Drizzle
Sesame Seeds

First make your pastry by rubbing the 2 fats into the flour.  You can do this by hand or in a food processor.  I use a little white fat in my pastry because I find it gives a crisper bake.  Once you have the 'bread crumb' finish, add your cold water slowly while mixing till you have a soft slightly wet dough.  If it's still a little wet it's easier to not overwork when adding flour to the surface and rolling out.

Roll your pastry and line a 8/9" flan tin.  Trim the edges and pop in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill.  This helps stop it shrinking when baking.  When it's chilled, line with parchment and fill with baking beans (dried pulses, rice, whatever you have to hand).  Bake for 15 minutes at 160C Fan.  Next remove the beans and parchment and return to the oven for another 5 minutes to cook the centre.  Because of the fat in the sausages it's important that the pastry is cooked to avoid the dreaded  'Soggy Bottom'.

While the pastry is cooking, slice your leeks thinly.  I slice it into quarters horizontally then slice the four sections, you don't want big chunks of leek.  Put the leeks in a pan with the oil and cook till soft and translucent.  Now snip in the sage and cook for 2 minutes more.

Let the leeks cool slightly while you remove the skins from your sausages.  Now add the leeks, breadcrumbs and egg and combine well.  You could use your hands for this but if you're a bit squeamish, use a mixer.  When it's all mixed, fill your pastry shell and Bake for 20 minutes at 160C Fan.

Drizzle over some honey and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake for a further 10 minutes to get a nice sticky golden finish.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


Last week I was very lucky to be the recipient of a bag of quince.  The donor was Mary-Ann Time To Cook, one of the 3 finalists from The Great British Bake Off GBBO.  We had lunch together and when I arrived Mary-Ann handed me my bounty and I left it in the boot of my car while we ate.  On returning to the car I was met with the most glorious perfume.  Quince has a sweet honey like scent like nothing else, it is neither apple nor pear but something in between and when made into a jelly is the colour of rose tinted amber.

My recipe is not very precise for this.  I did not weigh the fruit but measured the liquid it produced.  You need 500g of sugar for every 600ml of liquid.  Quince has a high pectin content so should set easily but if you have the fear of not setting you could use a jam sugar which has pectin added to be on the safe side.

Fill your largest pan with the fruit cut into chunks and add a lemon cut in half.  Next add enough water to just cover the fruit and bring it to the boil.  Once it's boiling, leave it to simmer until the fruit is soft and mushy.  This should take about an hour but don't worry if it takes longer.  Give it a stir from time to time to stop it sticking and burning on the bottom.

Now you need to strain the liquid from the mush.  If you have a jelly bag - lucky you.  I have no such thing so used a pillow case hooked on an upturned stool with the cleaned pan underneath.  Leave it to strain over night to ensure you get every last drop.

My carrier bag gave me just under 1200 ml so I used 1kg of sugar.  Add the sugar to the pan and boil till you reach setting point.  You can use either a jam thermometer for this or test a teaspoon of the jelly on a chilled saucer.  I usually put one in the freezer before I start boiling.  Leave it on the saucer for a minute then run your finger through it, if it forms a skin which then wrinkles, it's ready.

Pour your jelly into sterilised jars and feel very smug that you have just made something very tasty indeed while you listen for the pop pop popping of your lids.

I sterilise my jars by washing them in warm soapy water then put them into an oven at 100C till they're dry.  Use them straight away once they're out of the oven.  I put the lids in a pan and boil them in water for 5 minutes.

Thanks Mary-Ann Time To Cook   Now, where's the cheese?

Monday, 10 October 2011


 I've been making these gluten free coffee cakes and coconut cakes for Dafna's Cheescake Factory in Liverpool for a while now and they've proved to be a hit.  Gluten free cakes can be a little dry I think but I've used potato and sweet potato along with rice flour and ground almonds.  Adding vegetables to the mixture makes them soft and light.  Both are topped with buttercream to finish.

Everyone knows I like to save money where I can and these mini cakes were baked in sponge pudding tins, the ones you get in the supermarket and boil in the can.  They're a 4" tin and perfect for a gift size cake.

Friday, 7 October 2011


Mo's not keen on cake so I made this flower pot of pink meringue roses instead.

Hope you had a lovely day Mo x

Thursday, 6 October 2011


I don't know where to start with thanking all of you for your amazing support throughout this extraordinary chapter in my life. I've been overwhelmed with the love and encouragement that's been sent my way and it means the world to me, you have no idea.

 I never imaged when I started on this road how much it would change my life, I think I was a little naive really. Getting on the show was a huge confidence boost but you have all tipped that over the edge.

I've had the most exciting, exhilarating and exhausting time that I would not have missed for the world. It has given me so much and I'm a far better cook now because of it and my enthusiasm for cooking, baking and sharing that has increased by having this blog, something I would not have done were it not for the show and my fellow contestants encouraging me to do so.

I have so many highlights; acquiring new friends in the other bakers - a diverse group of people who under different circumstances would never have met. Being crowned Star Baker for my bread and giving as good as I got from Paul over my basket. Laughing hysterically on the train with Janet, a more adorable and hilarious person you'll never meet. Being invited to go on BBC Radio Merseyside and being talked about, in a positive light by Chris Evans on his breakfast show. Mary Portas tweeting about me, having my recipes published and being on the BBC Food website and finding old friends that I should never have lost contact with. But best of all has been the warmth people have shown, friends, family and strangers.

So, if you have sent me a text, messaged me on Face Book, the blog or Twitter, stopped me in the street, emailed me or mentioned me on the radio, I THANK YOU, You have no idea how much it means Xx

Monday, 3 October 2011


Phwoar....Lovely great whopping Meringues!

These always go down well, I like them with a bit of chew in the middle and with a drizzle of chocolate and a sprinkle of pistachios.  You can add all sorts of colours and flavours, rose syrup added to the whipped egg whites then sprinkled with dried rose petals are another favourite in this house.  Try adding cocoa or milkshake powders for banana or strawberry flavours.  You could also use golden caster sugar for a more toffee taste.

Quantities are easy to remember, for each egg white you need 60g of sugar.

Heat your oven to  140C.

Whisk the egg whites till stiff with an electric mixer, next add your sugar a tablespoon at a time, pouring it in slowly whilst still mixing.  When it's all incorporated and looks beautifully glossy your done.

Pile or pipe your meringue onto baking parchment and bake for about an hour, depending on whether  you want them dry or chewy.

Leave them in the oven till it has cooled, about 15-20 minutes then remove them to cool completely.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

MacMillan Coffee Morning

Wirral Partnership Homes held a coffee morning for residents and staff on Friday to raise funds for Macmillan Nurses and I was pleased to help out by bringing along some cakes to sell.

Wirral Partnership Homes is the largest registered provider of affordable housing on the Wirral, they formed in 2005 and work as a not profit organisation aiming to to work in partnership with residents and other organisations to build sustainable communities.

Macmillan Cancer Support help people affected by cancer, patients, families, carers and communities with practical, emotional and financial support.  They are such a worthy charity with the aim of reaching every person diagnosed with cancer no matter who they are, where they live or the type of cancer they have.  My Mother and closest friend were both affected by cancer so this is a charity very close to my heart and one I am always willing to support. 

It was a great day and well attended by residents and staff who raised over £200 for the charity.  I really enjoyed meeting everyone talking cake and getting to eat other peoples bakes for a change.  It's a brilliant way to raise money, everyone loves cake so who could resist. Thanks for asking me WPH. I wouldn't have missed it for the world x