Sunday, 1 December 2013


You can't have christmas with Gingerbread and these cupcakes bring all the best elements of those spicy yuletide treats together to produce the scrummiest cupcakes.  The cake itself has ginger and mixed spice whilst the buttercream has cinnamon added for extra spice overload.

150g Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp Mixed Spice
75g Soft Brown Sugar
1 Egg
90g Margarine
60ml Milk
2 tbsp/100g Golden Syrup

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir till completely combined.  Divide between 12 cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes.

While the cakes cool make your buttercream with 300g Icing Sugar, 150g Butter and 1 tsp Cinnamon.  Once the cakes have cooled completely, pipe a swirl of buttercream onto each one and top with a small gingerbread biscuit.


Sunday, 24 November 2013


For me Christmas is all about tradition.  Those particular little things we do to make the yuletide even more special and help build the excitment of what's to come.  In my house it means family and a time to share and enjoy together, and some traditions like Stir up Sunday lend themselves perfectly to this.

Stir up Sunday takes place on the last sunday before advent and like so many Christmas customs is said to have been introduced by Prince Albert. Nowadays we either use the day to make our Christmas cake or Christmas pudding but the ritual is the same.  Everyone gathers round to stir the ingredients and make a wish.  Some add a sixpence or silver charm which is meant to bring wealth for the coming year for it's recipient.  I use the same sixpence I got in my pudding at primary school.

As with Christmas cake, Christmas pudding has a long shelf life so stir up Sunday means you have one of your many tasks all done and dusted way in advance of the big day.  It also acts as a signal for me that I should make a start on all the other jobs in hand.   This year I was very lucky to get all my ingredients from the good people at Sainsbury's so I had no excuse not to get it done. It's packed with plump fruits and warming brandy, just right for a festive treat.  I used:

385g Sainsbury's Mixed Dried Fruit
80g Sainsbury's Ready-to-Eat Dried Figs, roughly chopped
75g Sainsbury's Glace Cherries, roughly choppped
100ml Basics Brandy
1 Small Cooking Apple, peeled cored & grated
1 Small Orange, zest & juice
100g Shredded Suet
3 Medium Free-Range Sainsbury's Woodland Eggs, beaten
100g Ground Almonds
200g Soft Muscovado Sugar
140g Self Raising Flour
20g Sainsbury's Almonds, halved
1 tsp Sainsbury's Ground Mixed Spice
1 tsp Sainsbury's Ground Cinnamon

Put the mixed fruit, figs and cherries into a pan, I used scissors to cut mine up.  Add the brandy and bring to the boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat, cover with a lid and ideally soak overnight.  If you've no time though, you could just leave it a couple of hours before continuing.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the apple, orange, suet, eggs, ground almonds, sugar and flour. Here is the 'Stir Up' bit.  Everyone stirs in the soaked fruit, almonds and spices, making a wish as they do.

Pour the mixture into a greased 1 litre pudding basin.  Cover the basin with 2 large circles of greaseproof paper then cover with pleated foil to allow for your pudding expanding.  Secure around the top with string making a handle so you can remove your hot pudding with ease.

Place the basin in a steamer or large sausepan with a lid, pour boiling water half way up the basin, cover and steam for 2 hours.  Allow to cool then wrap the whole basin in foil untill Christmas.

On the big day, place the pudding into a large saucepan or steamer and cook as before for 1 hour 30 minutes until heated through and springy to touch.

Top tip for flaming your pudding.  If you warm your brandy first, it's much easier to light.  I heat it over a flame in a ladle, light it then pour it over whilst still alight.


Sunday, 27 October 2013


When it comes to comfort food you really can't go wrong with rice pudding. I love it.  I can eat it baked with the skin on top, made on the hob, hot or cold.  As a child if I was poorly my mother's rice pudding was the only thing that made me better.  Even school rice pudding with the blob of jam that of course you had to stir in so it all went pink.  I just love rice pudding and with the addition of these spiced plums and their magnificent crimson intensity, it really doesn't get better.

This is posh rice pudding, a decadent grown up version that is almost embarrased at how luxurious it has become.

700ml Milk, 50g Sugar, 200g Pudding Rice, 150g Double Cream, Freshly Grated Nutmeg

To make the rice pudding, heat the milk and sugar then add the rice and cook for 30 minutes stiring from time to time to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Once cooked, stir through the double cream and grated nutmeg.

Spiced Plums
500g Plums halved and seeded
50g Sugar
150ml Fresh Orange Juice
Zest of 1 Orange
2 Star Anise
1 Cinnamon Stick

Put all the ingredients into an oven proof dish and bake for 30 minutes at 190C.  When the plums are tender top with the rice pudding and return to the oven for 20 minutes till browned.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


I recently had the good fortune of being asked to use the KenwoodClassic Chef Mixer from Argos. I have been used countless mixers of varying quality and price in my time so I had a lot to compare it to. I have to say it did well. It comes with a balloon whisk, a dough hook which I used for bread and the K beater for a cake, both with excellent results.
The K beater has a really peculiar shape that I can't help but think it has some clever hi-tech benefits to its mixing. It has a clear see through splash guard so no need to wrap a tea towel round the top!
Kenwood have had a reputation for decades as a brand you can rely on. I can remember growing up that the name Kenwood was used as the word for mixer just like Hoover for vacuum cleaner. It's one of those products that your mum had and is still using.

The Kenwood Classic Chef Mixer is available from Argos along with a great variety of other Kenwood products all competitivley priced. Mine was ordered one day and delivered the next morning, couldn't be easier.

I know some people have a thing about putting sweet and savoury together but for me it's not an issue. This is a sweet dough but not excessively so and with the addition of mushrooms and tarragon the whole thing becomes something quite decadent.
I wouldn't usually use a mixer for making bread but this sweat enriched dough is really sticky so starting it off in the mixer made it more manageable before I started kneading.

BREAD 500g White Bread Flour, 15g Yeast, 60g Butter, 40g Sugar, 10g Salt, 2 Eggs, 250ml Warm Milk
If you're using fresh yeast rub it into the flour along with the butter as you would when making pastry. Add the remaining ingredients and mix in your mixer on it's lowest setting till it comes together.
Spray a little oil onto your surface and tip the dough onto it. Dust your hands with a little flour and knead for 8-10 minutes.
If it gets sticky, spray a little more oil on the surface. Don't be tempted to add flour, this will make your dough heavy and you want to keep it soft, the softer your dough, the softer your bread will be.
Dust the bowl with a little flour and return the dough to it, cover with cling film or a shower cap and leave to rise for 1 hour whilst you make your filling.
MUSHROOMS: 1 tbsp Olive Oil, 1 Red Onion finely chopped, 1 Clove Garlic crushed, 300g Mushrooms finely chopped, 2 tsp Dried Tarragon, Salt & Pepper to season, 2 tbsp Double Cream

Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onions till soft, add the garlic and cook for another minute. Now add the mushrooms, tarragon and season with salt and pepper. Cook till the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and cook for a further minute. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Once the dough has risen divide into 20 pieces and form into neat balls. Roll out each ball into a rough rectangle and place a dessert spoon of mushroom into the centre. Bring the two ends into the middle then pull the sides together and seal tightly forming a rectangular roll.

Place each roll onto baking sheets lined with parchment and leave to rise for another 45 minutes to 1 hour.Once they have risen, brush with a little milk and bake for 25-30 minutes at 180C.

180g Sugar, 20g Butter, 3 eggs, 300g Self Raising Flour, ½ tsp Baking Powder, 2 x 411g Jars Mincemeat, 60g Glace Cherries, Flaked Almonds to decorate

This is a great recipe for your mixer, you simply weigh all the ingredients into the bowl with the beater attachment and the mixer does all the work for you in no time at all.

Pour the batter into a lined 2lb loaf tin sprinkle the top with flaked almonds and bake for 11/2 – 2 hours at 160C fan. You may want to cover it with foil after the first hour to stop it burning. Test the centre with a skewer and once cooked remove from the oven and cool in the tin.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013


I recently visited the Bertinet Bakery in Bath and amongst other things tried this brioche slice. On returning home I had to give it a go myself so this is my version for you to create a petit bit of france in your kitchen.

2 Large Oranges sliced thinly
 145g Sugar
 200ml Water
1 Sliced Brioche Loaf
 100g Butter
 2 Eggs
 75g Plain Flour
 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
 100g Ground Almonds
 1 tsp Almond Extract
 100g Flaked Almonds

Heat the water in a pan with 100g sugar till it has dissolved then add the orange slices and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.  In a bowl mix the butter, eggs, flour, baking powder, almonds, almond extract and 45g sugar till well combined.  Lay the slices of brioche onto a baking sheet and drizzle each slice with 1 tbsp of the orange syrup from the pan. Now spread each slice with the almond paste and cover with flaked almonds.  Top the brioche with a slice of orange and bake for 20-25 minutes at 180C till the almonds become golden.

Bon Appetit

Sunday, 13 October 2013


It should come as no surprise that we have a National Curry Week, curry being up there with roast dinner, fish and chips and the full English as one of the nations favourite dishes.  In my house we don't need the excuse of a special week to sit down to a Jalfrezi or Balti and all the extras that go with it.

It can seem a little daunting sometimes to make your own curries with so many different spices to use.   Using fresh herbs and spices is so important and if you're not using them regularly they can become stale and loose their richness and depth of flavour. To help with this, Sainsbury's have come up with a selection of handy individual Curry Kits with spices ready for you to make your favourite curry dish.  They come with enough spices to make a meal for 4 and list all the ingredients you need along with the method.  They also have suggestions of other dishes you could use the spices for.

I tried the kits for Tikka Masala, Jalfrezi and Bombay Potatoes along with a jar of Mango Chutney and or course no curry is complete without some popadoms.

There are no hard and fast rules when using the kits, I have swapped some ingredients and used some of the packs for completely different recipes from those suggested.


1 Sainsbury's Jalfrezi Curry Kit, 1 x 320g Sainsbury's Fish Pie Mix, 1 tbsp Oil

Mix the 2 sachets of spices together along with the oil.  Stir in the fish and coat it well.  Push the fish onto skewers and place on a baking sheet.  Cook at 200C for 10-15 minutes.  Drizzle over a little fresh lemon juice and serve.


1 Sainsbury's Tikka Masala Kit
8 Boned Chicken Thighs 
1 tsp Salt
2 Garlic Cloves
1 inch piece Ginger grated
1 Large Onion diced
2 tbsp Oil
400g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
1 tsp Lemon Juice
1 x 250ml carton Coconut Cream
Toasted Flaked Almonds to garnish

Mix the contents of the marinade sachet with 1/2 tsp salt and half the garlic and ginger.  Add a tbsp of oil and mix in the chicken cut into bite size pieces.  Leave to marinade for 30 minutes then place on a baking sheet and grill for 3 minutes on each side.  Whilst you do this, cook the onions and remaining garlic and ginger with 1 tbsp of oil.

Once the onions become soft add the second sachet and cook for a minute then add the tomatoes, lemon juice and coconut milk.  Simmer for 10 minutes then add the chicken and cook for a further 10 minutes.  Garnish with toasted flaked almonds.


This is a great recipe hot or cold, the mango chutney caramelises on the chicken giving it a golden sticky coating that's hard to resist.

4 Chicken Drumsticks
4 Chicken Thighs
1 x 340g Jar Sainsbury's Mango Chutney
1 tbsp Oil
4 tbsp Lime Juice
1/2 tsp Nigella Seeds

Use a sharp knife to slash deep cuts into the chicken.  Mix the remaining ingredients and use it to coat the chicken.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and cook in the oven at 200C for 25-30 minutes till it is cooked through and the juices run clear when pierced.


The brilliant Joanne Wheatley came up with the genius recipe for flat breads that I cannot do without.  It's so simple and quick to make and you can adapt it with different flavours very easily.

300g Self Raising Flour, 1 Sainsbury's Bombay Potatoes Kit, 300g Natural Yoghurt, Oil for cooking

Combine the flour and both sachets of spices.  Add the yoghurt and mix till it forms a soft dough.  Divide the dough into 8 and form into balls.  On a floured surface roll out the dough balls to about 5mm, brush or spray with oil then cook on a hot griddle for roughly 2 minutes on each side.

It really does not get any easier than this, you just throw everything into a food processor and blend till smooth, told you!

25g Desiccated Coconut
150g Natural Yoghurt
100g Fresh Coriander
2 Green Chillies
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Magazine Update 2

I've added a few more pdf recipe cards to my download
page some of which I will add to the blog shortly.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


I have been asked to join the the BBC's Gardeners Question Time experts whilst they visit Ness Gardens and demonstrate a couple of seasonal bakes.  There's such a great deal of fruit and veg available at the moment , it was difficult to decide on just which recipes to use.  Hopefully I have come up with two that everyone likes, they're easy to make and tick the seasonal box.


This was a recipe given to me by my friend Katrina at WI.  I'd been searching for a good apple cake recipe for such a long time and one day she just served this up saying it was just something she'd thrown together.  It's packed with apples and is like a cross between a cake and a pudding.  Great cold on it's own or warm with custard, you can't go wrong.

170g Butter
170g Sugar
300g Self raising Flour
3 Eggs
100g Sultanas
2 Cooking Apples
100ml Milk
1tsp Cinnamon
1 tbsp Demerara Sugar

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar.  Now add the flour and eggs and mix well till everything is combined. Next stir in the sultanas and milk.

Peel the apples and cut into 1/4's.  Remove the core and slice each 1/4 across, not lengthways, into thick slices.  Gently fold the apples into the mixture till it is evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into a   rectangular cake tin lined with parchment.  Level it out and dust with the cinnamon and Demerara sugar.  Bake for 40-50 minutes till cooked through and golden.  Leave to cool then dust with a little icing sugar.


This is a recipe from a book by Harry Eastwood - Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache.  The book is packed with recipes for cakes using vegetables as an alternative to wheat flour.  When I make these cakes the initial reaction is always one of disbelief until I remind them of carrot cake and then it becomes perfectly acceptable.

2 Eggs
100g Sugar
200g Butternut Squash, finely grated
Zest of 1 Orange
2 tsp Orange Blossom Water
50g Rice Flour
100g Ground Almonds
2 tsp Gluten Free Baking Powder

Juice of 1 Orange
50g Sugar
Buttercream to decorate

Use an electric whisk or free standing mixer to beat the eggs and sugar together till light, fluffy and doubled in size.

Add the grated butternut squash along with the orange zest and orange blossom water and whisk again.

Now add the Rice flour, ground almonds and baking powder and mix till all is combined.

Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases and divide the mixture between them.  Bake for 15-20 minutes at 180C.

Whilst they are baking juice the orange, you should get about 50g then in a pan, heat with and equal quantity of with sugar till the sugar has melted.  Once the cakes are cooked prick them with a tooth pick and drizzle a teaspoon of the syrup onto each. Now decorate with piped buttercream.  For even more orange kick you could add a teaspoon of the orange flower water to the buttercream.

Sunday, 21 July 2013


Ok, so I believe it is always important to have a standby emrgency pudding to hand for those occasions when unexpected guests turn up, you forgot you're bringing the pudding or you just fancy a little smackeral of something for a late night treat.  This is one of those quick throw it together recipes for such situations.

Most of the ingredients can either be kept in the freezer or store cupboard including the Abbra-Ca-Debora Diddy Pancakes.  I love these cute pancakes.  They are 4cms in diameter so just a mouth full and have a light fluffy texture and an authentic dutch pancake flavour.  Made with classic pancake ingredients of lfour, fresh milk, eggs and vegetable oil they can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 weeks or you can freeze them.

I know that if you have more time on your hands you could make them yourself, but we don't always and if you can make life a little easier, why not.  You don't have to cook with them, they are great just warmed with maple syrup, honey or drizzled with melted chocolate ad a good addition to breakfast or sweet fondue.

Abra-ca Debora Pancakes are available in Tesco's, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Waitrose in the chiller cabinet for £1.49

I have used the Diddy Pancakes in my Summer Berry Pudding along with Frozen berries and white chocolate

1 Pouch Abra-ca-Debora Diddy Pancakes
100g White Chocolate
150g Frozen Summer Berries
30g Caster Sugar
15g Plain Flour
150ml Soured Cream
1 Egg
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp Icing Sugar

Heat the oven to 160C.  Sprinkle half the Diddy Pancakes into a baking dish, cover with half the berries and half the chocolate chopped into small chunks.  Repeat the layers.

In a jug whisk the sugar, flour, sour cream, egg and vanilla then pour it over the pancake layers.  Leave it to stand and soak in a little for 10 minutes then bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes till it has set.  It may still be a bit wobbly in the centre but as it cools this will get firmer.

We have this warm with ice cream, perfect xx

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


I was recently sent a Fruitdrop box containing a beautiful selection of fruit which inspired me to bake something delicious.  I have to be honest I was a little pessimistic when I was offered the box.  In the past my experience of fruit and veg deliveries has been a little disappointing.  Items that I don't really want and in not very good condition but the Fruitdrop Box was superb and every item was so fresh, I had to stop my children from diving in and eating the lot.

What's different about Fruitdrop is that they deliver to your office.  Fruitdrop Office Fruit Boxes can be bought in quantities suitable for your office size and delivered as regularly as you want them.

My box came with a large hand of bananas, satsumas, 2 types of apples, the most gorgeous pears, grapes and plums.  There was more than enough fruit for my family to last over a week and that's even after I had used some to cook with.


150g Short Crust pastry
50g Butter
50g Granulated Sugar
15g Self Raising Flour
50g Ground Almonds
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Almond Essence
5 Plums
30g Flakes Almonds

Line a 8" loose bottom tart tin with the pastry and chill in the fridge while you make the filling.

Cream together the butter and sugar then add the flour, ground almonds, egg and essence.  Mix everything till it is completely combined.

Pour the mixture into the pastry case and spread it out evenly.  Cut the plums into 1/4's and place them cut side up onto the almond mixture then sprinkle on the flaked almonds.

Bake in the oven at 180C for 25-35 minutes.


125g Puff Pastry
6 Large Bananas
50g Butter
100g Soft Brown Sugar
125g Puff Pastry

Melt the butter in a frying pan and cut each banana into 4.  Add them to the pan and cook till lightly brown and starting to soften.  Now add the sugar and cook till melted.  Now coat the bananas with the melted sugar and butter and turn off the heat.

Transfer the cooked bananas to four individual tart tins standing them upright and pour over the remaining butter and sugar.

Roll out the puff pastry and cut out 4 discs large enough to cover the bananas and tuck into the tins.  Ensure the bananas are completely sealed with the pastry and bake at 200C for 20 minutes.

Once the pastry becomes brown and puffed up, remove from the oven and carefully turn out each tart.  Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

Friday, 31 May 2013


I just love to make bread, of all the things to bake I believe it is the cleverest.  I get so excited returning to a a lump of dough that I've been kneading to discover it has grown into a beautifully light plump cushion of loveliness.

It's all about practice and finding the technique that works for you.  There is a lot of instinct with bread and knowing what feels right.  Before The Bake Off I baked bread but by the time I made it for the programme I really got to grips with creating bread, adding flavours and knowing what my capabilities were and capitalising on them.  I know that if I add extra liquids it tends to go wrong for me so I stick to seeds, herbs and spices.

Apart from the end product, what I really enjoy is that feeling of tradition and ceremony.  Baking bread is something that has been done for centuries and the basic principles have not changed, just the flavours.  The only limits are your own imagination so get kneading and remember that the softer your dough, the softer your bread.

I really enjoy sweet dough to eat with delicious home baked ham or a good nutty cheese like Gruyere but sometimes a bit of butter is all that is needed.  This lavender and honey bread needs nothing, a bit like brioche we just ripped it apart and scoffed the lot shortly after these photos were taken.  Warm light and fluffy, what more could you ask for apart from more please!

The inspiration for this bread came from a new selection of Infused Sugars from Sainsbury's in their Taste The Difference range.  They have introduced 3 flavours, Cinnamon, Vanilla and Lavender and all come in a 250g pot.  They are perfect for adding that extra kick of flavour to your bakes and when I saw the lavender I needed no excuse to come up with a recipe.  With the added ingredient of Sainbury's Spanish Lavender Honey it has a delicate flavour you'll really enjoy.

500g Strong White Bread Flour
60g Butter
40g Sainsbury's Lavender Infused Sugar
10g Salt
15g Yeast
250g Milk
2 tbsp Sainsbury's Spanish Lavender Honey
2 Eggs

First warm the milk till it is no longer cold, you don't want to heat it.  In a large mixing bowl rub the butter into the flour.  Combine the remaining dry ingredients then add the eggs.  This is a very sticky dough so use a free standing mixer with a dough hook to start you off.  With the mixer on, slowly add the milk till it forms a dough.  If you don't have a mixer, use a knife to mix your dough till it comes together.

Very lightly flour your surface and tip the dough onto it.  Flour your hands and using the heal of your hands, knead the dough by stretching it till it becomes smooth, elastic and slightly warm.  This should take about 8-10 minutes.  Form the dough into a tight, neat ball and return it to the bowl.  Cover with cling film (or a disposable shower cap) and leave to rise for 1 hour.

Once your dough has doubled in size (and you have shown everyone how clever you are......just me then!) Tip it back onto the surface and knock the air back out of it.  Now form the dough into 2 loaves or individual rolls and place onto a baking stone or baking sheet lined with parchment.

Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for a further hour to double in size again.  Once risen, brush the dough with milk and sprinkle a little of the Lavender Sugar.

Bake the bread in a preheated oven at 210C for the first 10 minutes then turn the heat down to 200C and bake for a further 20-30 minutes depending on whether you are baking rolls or a loaf.  Keep an eye on it as sweet dough can burn quite easily.

Once it has cooked, tap the bottom and if it sounds hollow it's done.