Wednesday, 19 December 2012


Who could not resist these quick and easy christmas trees to make with the kids over the holidays.  They were the perfect thing to make for the school christmas fair, and a favourite amongst the children spending their pocket money.

In a large pan melt 100g White Chocolate, 200g Marshmallows, and 3 tbsp Golden Syrup.  When they have completely melted, stir in 100g Rice Krispies.  Quick as you can start stuffing some waffle Cones.  You should be able to make about 8.  Be warned, this is a sticky job and as the Krispies start to cool the mixture gets really stretchy.

When they are filled, push a lolly stick into the mixture and leave upside down to set.  I've used an egg tray but glasses would also do the job.  Once they have set, coat the cones with green icing and sprinkles.


Friday, 14 December 2012

ROSCA DE REYES - Sweet Bread Crown

When I go on holiday I like to go off the beaten track and get a real feel for the place that I'm visiting, go to the  shops and cafes that the locals use and have an authentic taste of the country.  My family and I spent some time in Spain this year with a holiday in Lanzarote where we visited the volcano in the Timanfaya National Park and they cooked chicken from the heat of the volcano

and Tenerife where we had the most amazing sea food and fresh fruit.  I discovered a bizarre fruit which looks like a green pineapple but tastes like a banana and the delicious cake called Tarte De Saint Jaques, an almond cake that we couldn't get enough of.

Spain has lots of foodie traditions and christmas is no exception,  I always think that embracing different customs can only enhance our own celebrations and they usualy involve food which is always good with me.  

Three Kings Day which marks the end of christmas and traditionally the day when children get their presents, takes place 12 days after christmas and celebrates the day the Three Wise Men gave gifts to Jesus. Rosca De Reyes is customarily eaten on this day, a ring of sweet bread packed with dried and candied fruit which represents a crown worn by the kings. It also has a small doll hidden inside to symbolise jesus hiding from Herod. If you get the slice with the doll, you then host a party for Candlemass on February 2nd, more food, woohoo!

I am asked quite regularly what my favourite thing is to bake and it doesn't take much thought to reply with bread. This bread looks so spectacular when it emerges from the oven that everyone gasps.  You can use a variety of dried fruit like figs, cherries and cranberries, the more colourful the better.  I have used mixed fruit, cherries and crystallised ginger along with pistachios and flaked almonds to finish it off.  For extra christmas flavour I've also added some mixed spice and cinnamon and my secret ingredient is some of the beautiful cherry vinegar from Womersley Foods which gives it a whole different dimension with an added depth of flavour.

I can see this being a regular addition to our festivities along with Salmon Coulibiac on christmas eve and Guyanese Pepperpot for christmas breakfast.

500g Strong White Bread Flour
15g Quick Active Yeast
60g Butter
40g Sugar
10g Salt
2 Eggs
250ml Warm Milk

230g Mixed Fruit
40g Glace Cherries
40g Pistachios
40g Crystalised Ginger
25g Butter
1 tbsp Soft Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
1 tsp Mixed Spice
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 tbsp Cherry Vinegar - Optional
20g Flaked Almonds
2 tblsp Honey

First Make the dough.  While you warm the milk add the remaining ingredients to the bowl of a freestanding mixer and process till everything is blended. Next add the eggs and mix, then the warmed milk.  The milk should be warm not hot.  Keep mixing till it comes together as a dough and tip it onto a lightly floured surface to knead.  It will be a little stickier than normal bread so harder to knead but it does come together eventually and you will get that lovely warm, smooth stretchy dough you want.

After 8-10 minutes of kneading sprinkle some flour into the bowl and return your dough.  Cover with cling film or a disposable shower cap and leave in a warm place to rise for 1hour.  It should double in size and fill the bowl.  While the dough is rising, mix the filling.  Cut the cherries into 1/4's, roughly chop the pistachios and cut the ginger into small pieces. Combine all the ingredients apart from the flaked almonds and honey.

When the dough has risen, on a floured surface roll it out into a large rectangle about 25cm x 75cm and spread the filling mix over it.  Using the long edge, roll the whole thing up into a sausage.

Now cut down the middle along the length of it and lay the two pieces next to each other, cut side up.  Carefully twist the two pieces together keeping the cut side uppermost.

Gingerly transfer the twined dough onto a baking stone or baking sheet lined with parchment and join the ends together to form a wreath.  Lastly, sprinkle on the almonds.  Now leave in a warm place to rise again for a further 45-60 minutes.

Sweet dough has a tendency to burn quite easily before it is cooked so tent the dough with foil for the first 15 minutes to avoid this.  Bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 170c

Once it has cooked, transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with warm honey to give your crown a shiny glaze.

I didn't have the traditional baby to hide but the Jesus from out Playmobil Nativity did the job!

Add your comment now at the Cosmos Blog to enter the draw x

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


I'm going to come right out with it, I don't like mince pies.  There, I've said it.  I think they're just too rich but this alternative has the perfect balance of fruit and pastry.

I have used one dough for the top and bottom a bit like a shortbread then added flaked almonds for a little more crunch and texture, the end result is a bit like a crumble slice.

In a processor mix 250g Self Raising Flour, 220g Sunflower Margarine, 50g Light Brown Sugar and 2 tsp Mixed Spice.  This will make a soft dough.  Take two thirds of the dough and press it into the base of an 11" x 7" rectangular baking tin lined with parchment.

Now cover the base with a 400g Jar of Mincemeat spreading it evenly up to the edges.  Next use a large size grater and grate the remaining dough over the top of the mincemeat.  Lastly sprinkle over 30g Flakes Almonds and baked at 170C for 25-30 minutes.

Once it has cooled dredge with icing sugar

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Magazine Clearout

Here is a collection of articles for a local magazine which I was all set to delete from my computer. I decided to post them here instead as I've not updated my blog for a while and hopefully this will spur me back into action.  Also the articles make quite nice recipe cards if there is something you'd like to print out and keep? I think if you click on the image to open it in a new window it should be a printoutable size :)

Thursday, 30 August 2012


So I'm continuing on with my Great British Bake Off inspired tarts and this is a sweet one.  I've used pineapple but most fruit works well.  Apple is particularly good too because the flapjack topping is like chewy toffee so a perfect match. 

I usually make one large tart but opted for individual portions purely so I could try out my new silicone mould.  I'm quite new to silicone for baking and not sure if I quite like it but I have to say, they were very easy to get out.  It can be a bit hit and miss sometimes using metal baking tins, especially when cooking something with bubbling sugar that sticks but I'm too old school I think.  When making a victoria sponge I can only do it in pounds and ounces, my husband says that's because I'm classically trained.  I quite liked that.

Anyway, back to the recipe.  It's just a case of making a pastry shell, fill it with fruit them bob the flapjack mix on top and bake.  I could not believe how unctuous and cosy these were.  My Mother used to make Pine Tarts which were a triangular jam tart with pineapple jam, these are like the pimped up version of those.

200gPlain Flour                           
75g Butter                                    
1 Egg                                           

500g Pineapple in small chunks (Fresh or Tinned)
50g Butter
2 tbsp Golden Syrup
50g Light Brown Sugar
75g Porridge Oats

Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour to make a light crumb, add the egg and form into a dough.  Knead slightly till soft and smooth.  Line a muffin tray with the pastry and bake blind at 180C for 15 minutes.  I used cup cake cases in each tart shell to put the baking beans in.

When the shells are baked mix the flapjack topping.  In a pan warm the butter, sugar and syrup till they have melted then stir in the oats.  Don't mix the flapjack till you are ready to use it as it gets stiff and difficult to use as it cools.  Fill the pastry with the pineapple and top with a spoonful of flapjack mixture.  Bake for a further 15-20 minutes till the flapjack has browned.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


I'm really enjoying the new series of The Great British Bake Off, it makes a big difference being able to relax and watch someone else get stressed about their soggy bottom.

This week is all about tarts and it's inspired me to bake some of my own.  I'm starting with a savoury Tart Tatin.  Traditionally it is sweet and made with apples but if there is something that the Bake Off has taught me - you don't have to stick to tradition.

I'm using shallots for my Tatin and it's great hot or cold, not complicated and to make it even easier I've used bought puff pastry (Ssh).

500g Shallots, peeled
25g Butter
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tsp  Light Brown Sugar
Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
Salt & Pepper

250g Puff Pastry

Cook the onions in boiling water for 10 minutes then drain well while you heat the butter and oil in a heavy based frying pan.

Once the butter starts to sizzle add the shallots and fry gently for 10 minutes, turning the onions to colour all over.

Season with salt and pepper and add the fresh thyme then sprinkle over the sugar.  Cook for a further 5 minutes so the shallots are well coloured.

Roll out the pastry to form a round a little bigger than the pan then pop it on top to form a lid and tuck the edges of the pastry down the side of the pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 200C.  Once the pastry is golden and cooked remove it from the oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes before inverting it onto a plate to serve.

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed eating this and so pleased to have tried something a little different.  We had it with a very simple salad of spinach, goats cheese and the most delicious Sweetfire Baby Beetroot with a drizzle of garlic infused olive oil

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


I couldn’t give you a Portuguese recipe without using Piri Piri.  This spice mix is readily available in many different forms from the supermarket these days but there’s nothing like home made and it will take just 5 minutes to make.
You can cook the prawns on a griddle but they are also brilliant on a barbecue or roasted in the oven at 220C for 20 minutes.  If the shells are crispy enough I have been known to eat the lot but you can shell your prawns leaving just the tails on before adding them to the marinade.
12 Large Raw Prawns or Crevettes
3 Cloves Garlic
2 Red Chillies
1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
1/2 bunch Fresh Corriander
Chuck all the ingredients apart from the prawns into a food processor and whizz them till they form a smooth marinade.
Tip everything into a sealable bag and give it a good mix up making sure that all the prawns are coated in that lovely spicy mix.  Leave it in the fridge for an hour to marinade.
Heat a griddle pan till it’s good and hot then cook the prawns for about 4 minutes on each side till they are cooked through and pink.

Thursday, 16 August 2012


I was asked recently to make some Portuguese Custard Tarts - Natas  and jumped at the chance.  There are lots of recipes out there but I find these work every time guaranteed.  You make the custard first so when it’s baked you have a lovely caramelised top.

Portuguese food has the warmth of it’s mediterranean neighbours with an added kick of north african spices.  Cinnamon and vanilla are very popular and this recipe calls for both.  The pastry has a lovely swirl of cinnamon running through it which means it looks great and tastes very special indeed.
I have used a cinnamon paste from the supermarket but if you can’t find it just sprinkle the pastry with sugar and ground cinnamon to cover it.
500g Puff Pastry
1 tbsp Cinnamon Paste
80g Sugar
80ml Water
500ml Milk
2 tbsp Corn Flour
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
2 egg yolks
Over a low heat warm the water and sugar till the sugar has dissolved then simmer for a further 2 minutes.
Mix the corn flour in a bowl with a little of the milk to form a paste then add the remaining milk.  Add the milk to the water along with the egg yolks and vanilla.  Whisk over a low heat till it thickens.
Remove the pan from the heat and cover with clingfilm to stop a skin forming.  Leave to cool.
Roll out your pastry on a floured surface to form a square roughly  35cm x 35cm.  Evenly spread the cinnamon paste over the pastry, not too thick, think of it as marmite.  Then roll it up tightly to form a long sausage.  

Cut the roll into 12 even pieces then roll out each piece flat on a floured surface to about 10cm/4” diameter.  
Lightly grease a muffin tin then line each hole with pastry.  Fill the shells with the cooled custard and bake for 15-20 minutes at 200C

Sunday, 24 June 2012


I feel guilty that I don't eat enough fish.  Meat is always my first option and I don't even bother reading the fish section on a menu when eating out.  I always think I'm going to be short changed with a delicate - read small, piece of fish thats going to leave me with dinner envy.  I am one of those people looking to see what other people have ordered instead of the menu to make my choice.

Coulibiac, originally a Russian dish, is like a meal in one and can never be accused of short changing anyone.  If you want to beef it up even more, you could add chopped boiled eggs to the rice. Served hot or cold it's just right for this time of year.

It is well documented that I am a fan of frozen puff pastry - life is too short! So it's just a case of making the rice and assembling, not very taxing.  Talking of ready made ingredients this is a good time to mention my secret ingredient which makes all the difference to the flavours.  I've told you about Womersley Foods and their delicious vinegars and dressings before.  They really inspire me and this recipe is perfect for the Lime, Black Pepper & Lavender Dressing.  I really recommend you try and get hold of them, I get mine from Delifonseca in Liverpool.  If you can't, try adding some dill, chives and juice of 1 lime with lots of black pepper. You could also try adding 2 tsp Curry Powder to the stock and coriander instead of parsley to make a kedgeree version.

This recipe is enough for 6 individual pies.

100g Long Grain Rice
500ml Fish Stock
200g Prawns
2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley chopped finely
Zest of 1 Lime
3 tbsp Womersley Lime, Black Pepper & Lavender Dressing
Salt & Pepper

6 x Salmon Fillets
2 x 500g Blocks Frozen Puff Pastry
1 egg

Cook the rice in the fish stock and leave to go cold.  Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Roll out the first block of pastry and cut into 6 squares, brush the edges with beaten egg and place a salmon fillet on each.  Top the fillets with rice, as much as you can.  It helps to press it down a little.

Now roll out the remaining pastry and divide into 6.  Pop these on the top and seal the edges.  I have used the circular end of a skewer to make the marks in mine but a fork is just as good.

Brush with beaten egg and bake for 25-30 minutes at 200C.

Thursday, 21 June 2012


With British strawberries in abundance at the moment, here is a summer dessert you can make ahead giving you time to relax in the sunshine.  I probably say this about most of the recipes I put on my blog, but I really do love Pannacotta.  My husband knows I will always pick it from a menu.  It's a simple dessert but it feels like eating velvet.  The strawberries only add to the luxury and it all helps with your 5 a day(!).  I've served mine with fresh strawberries which have been dressed with Womersley Foods Strawberry & Mint Dressing.  I've used Womersley dressings before, just the bottles are enough to make you want one but when you read the flavours it's difficult to know which to choose.  I get mine from Delifonseca in Liverpool but if you go to their website they have a list of stockists for you.  I find myself creating recipes around their flavours for sweet and savoury dishes.

200g Strawberries (hulled and choped) 30g Caster Sugar, 4 Gelatine Leaves, 500ml Whipping Cream

Soak the gelatine in water.  Blitz the strawberries and sugar in a processor until pureed.  Pour the puree into a small pan and bring to the boil.  Reduce the liquid by about 1/3 till it weighs 125g.  Pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds.  

Pour half the cream into the pan and bring to the boil, stir in the puree and remove from the heat.  Squeeze out the water from the gelatine and whisk into the strawberry and cream mixture, make sure the gelatine has dissolved.  Add the remaining cream and mix thoroughly.  

Pour into the moulds and refrigerate till set, about 4 hours.  Dip the moulds into boiling water to remove dessert and serve with fresh strawberries.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


Couscous is such a simple thing to make, you don't need fancy steamers or special cooking devices, just a bowl and some hot water.  It doesn't have a strong taste so it's great for adding flavours to.  I often make it with some piri piri seasoning or a little ground cumin and coriander.

This salad is a twist on the traditional greek salad.  It's easy to transport for picnics and the perfect accompaniment for barbecues this summer.

I've also made Tzatziki to go with it, all you need now are a couple of kofta kebabs from the barbecue and you're good to go.

200g Couscous
350ml Hot Chicken Stock
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
1 tsp Dried Thyme
Small Bunch Fresh Mint
6 Cherry Tomatoes
1/3 Cucumber
200g Feta Cheese
1 Small Red Onion
Black/Green Olives


200g Greek Yoghurt
Small Bunch Fresh Mint
1/3 Cucumber
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
Salt & Pepper

Put the couscous in a bowl and add the dried thyme.  In a jug add the olive oil and lemon juice to the stock and pour over the couscous.  Leave this to stand for 5 minutes to absorb the liquid.

While you are waiting, cut the cucumber into chunks and the tomatoes into quarters.  Cut the feta cheese into cubes and chop the mint finely.  Cut the onion in half then slice very thinly.

Once the stock has soaked in, fluff the couscous with a fork to break it up and leave to stand till it has cooled completely.  Once cooled you can add the remaining ingredients to make your salad.  Stir them all in with a fork till everything is evenly distributed.

To make the tzatziki, chop the mint finely and add to the yoghurt along with the lemon juice.  Peel the cucumber and slice it lengthways.  Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds from the middle.  This will stop it from adding extra liquid and making your tzatziki watery.  Chop the cucumber into small pieces and stir through the yoghurt.  Season to taste and serve with the couscous.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


This has to be the quickest dessert you can make and it's not only really tasty but pretty healthy too.  It's a brilliant one for kids because they can make it themselves.  As long as you have a blender you're sorted.  The choice of flavours is entirely up to you, I'm using mixed summer fruits and cherry yoghurt, it gives your finished dessert such a vibrant colour.  Frozen mango and pineapple with coconut yoghurt are a fantastic combination too.

In a blender tip 500g of Frozen Fruit then add a 450g Tub of Yoghurt and a couple of large tablespoons of Honey.  whizz it all together and serve immediately.

You can't get faster than that!

You could use natural yoghurt if you prefer and add as much honey to suit your taste.  If you freeze any left overs, remember to take it out about half an hour before you want to serve - this isn't soft scoop!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

PIE FUNNELS - A Few Of My Favourite Things

This week a few of my favourite things are these lovely pie funnels that look like little chimney pots.  I have the black bird and even a blue bird but when I saw the chimneys they had to be mine.  They come in different heights so you can use them in dishes of varying sizes but I have been known to use all three in a fish pie so they look like ship funnels.

My son Archie made a delicious corned beef pie this week which didn't really need a pie funnel but they are far too much fun to resist.

 I got my pie chimneys from Jamie At Home