Sunday, 15 January 2017

Quick and Easy Trifle

It really does vex me when people deem 'easy' recipes as somehow less worthy than their more complicated counterparts. Sometimes the easiest things can be the most satisfying and what is more satisfying than a dirty great trifle? I've made this one child friendly, but you can always add a little sherry if you'd like to make things more grown up. And as far as the sprinkles go? You can have whatever you want, WHATEVER YOU WANT!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: About 10 Mins for the fruit and then a few hours to chill
800g-1kg of Frozen Summer Fruits
160g (8) Trifle Sponges
800g Yellow Custard (It has to be yellow doesn't it!)
600ml Double Cream
The Sticky Seeds from a Vanilla Pod
75g Caster Sugar
Sprinkles (Be it Hundreds and Thousands, Toasted Nuts, or whatever you fancy!)

You'll only need your hob for this first bit, so grab a large saucepan and tip in the frozen fruit. Leave on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until some of the fruit has burst to release its delicious juice. You don't want it to boil but get to just beyond warm. Once the fruit is all juicy, remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.

Take each trifle sponge, dip one side in the fruit to soak up some juice and lay in the base of a good sized trifle dish. Ladle over the fruit (and remaining juice) to cover entirely. Top with the custard and spread carefully to cover. 

In a large mixing bowl add the cream, vanilla seeds and sugar. If you want to make use of the pod itself later, then just pop it into an airtight container and cover with more sugar. You'll then have lovely vanilla sugar for whenever you need it. Whisk the flavoured cream until soft peaks form, then spoon over the custard. Again carefully spread to the edges and finish with a generous helping of sprinkles. 

Pop in the fridge, covered if you can for a few hours, ideally overnight. You're then ready for the fun to begin!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Apricot and Amaretti Biscuit Upside Down Cake

Now, I know it's January and we're trying to be virtuous after a period of such indulgence, but I'm sure you can justify a little treat. If not how about trying out some of the excuses, ahem, sorry reasons that I have used in the last week or so...


  • I walked to work today
  • I went extra hard in the gym
  • That meeting was especially boring
  • It's Tuesday
So if you can rationalise it in your mind then why not try this one out? I'm sure you won't have to try too hard to make peace with your decision!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 60-70 Mins
200g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
200g Golden Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
11-12 Hard Amaretti Biscuits (Crushed)
5 Ripe Apricots (Halved and stoned)
2tbsp Apricot Jam (Warmed through until just syrupy)

To the kitchen once more! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 20cm deep baking tin and line with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla extract.

Sift in the flour and baking powder, Then sprinkle in the crushed grounds from six of the biscuits. Fold through until you are left with a consistent batter.

Sprinkle over the crushed grounds from four more amaretti biscuits over the base of you tin and top with the halved apricots. Spoon over the cake mixture and even gently to the edges. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 60-70 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 60 minutes. 

Carefully remove the cake from the tin, upturning onto a wire rack so the base is now on the top. Brush with apricot jam and finish with a final sprinkle of crushed biscuits. Done!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Dairy Free Baked Orange and Almond Pudding Cake

So here's my other alternative Christmas pudding recipe. This one is dairy free too which is somewhat of a bonus and as with it's companion recipe (see here for that one) it can be created as required in a relatively short space of time. You could try clementines if you wanted to be really festive, however I find them rather a pain to zest. So first time around stick with oranges, then you'll have the excuse to make another to compare. Not that one ever needs an excuse! ;-)

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins
1 Orange
4 Medium Eggs
125g Golden Caster Sugar
100g Ground Almonds
75g Plain Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
1-2tbsp Golden or Maple Syrup

I'm going to plagiarise myself here and reuse the beginning of my last recipe!

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a pudding tin (the one I use is around 16cm in diameter) and line the base with a little round disc of baking paper. Doing this makes it much easier to release the baked pudding from the tin later.

Zest the orange into a large mixing bowl then add the eggs and sugar. Whisk briskly, then add the ground almonds, flour and baking powder. Whisk to a smooth batter.

From the fattest part of the orange slice off three slices, each no thicker than a one pound coin. Place one onto the base of the tin, then cut the other two in half an arrange around the side of the base slice. Squeeze a tablespoon of juice from one of the orange ends and add to your cake batter. Whisk through gently to combine, then pour over the orange slices into the tin.

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 60 mins, until a metal skewer comes out cleanly from the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from oven and leave to cool in the tin for 20 mins.

If your cake has risen to a dome on the top/bottom then carefully slice the dome off with a sharp knife, so you have a flat base. Ooooh and there's a chef's treat for yourself! Run a flat bladed knife around the side of the cake and turn onto your serving place. Drizzle with golden or maple syrup and you are ready to serve. I actually prefer ice cream with this one, but the choice is yours. Merry Christmas. X

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Baked Apple Pudding

I LOVE Christmas pudding, but if it's not your cup of leaf tea then how about this cheeky pudding as an alternative? Sitting somewhere between an apple cake and treacle sponge it is beautiful both hot and cold and works so very well with all the familiar accompaniments. It's also very simple to prepare and can be made ready for the table in just over an hour. So if you're looking for a crowd pleasing recipe that's just a little different than the usual festive fayre, then why not have a little go at this one. 

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 50-55 Mins
125g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
125g Light Muscovado Sugar
2 Large Eggs
125g Plain Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
1/2tsp Ground Cinnamon (Or more if you like it spicy)
125g Fat Raisins
1 Large Apple (Peeled)
2-3tbsp Golden Syrup

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a pudding tin (the one I use is around 16cm in diameter) and line the base with a little round disc of baking paper. Doing this makes it much easier to release the baked pudding from the tin later.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon, then mix to a smooth and consistent batter. Fold through the big fat raisins, then chop around 3/4 of the large apple into small cubes and again fold through. That's the pudding mixture made. So easy!

Drizzle the golden syrup into the base of the tin until covered, then thinly slice the remaining 1/4 of apple. Arrange in a pretty pattern on top of the syrup then cover with the pudding batter. Level the surface, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 50-55 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the pudding. When you are happy the pudding is baked remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 10 minutes.

Run a flat bladed knife around the edge of the pudding, then turn out onto a heat-proof plate or dish. Drizzle with the remaining syrup and your work is done. :-)

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Mincemeat and Marzipan Strudel

Who wants a fancy Christmas recipe, that is deceptively easy to make AND impressive to serve AND a clever twist on a festive favourite? This strudel is an magnificent beast to present to your loved ones and inside lurks a wonderful mixture of flavours and textures. I'll let you decide whether to serve with cream, custard or brandy sauce. ;-)

Prep time: 30 Mins
Baking time: 45 Mins
12 Sheets of Filo Pastry
75g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
6 Hard Amaretti Biscuits (Crushed)
600g Mature Mincemeat
1 Large Apple
50g Flaked Almonds
150g Marzipan
A sprinkling of Light Brown Sugar

Let us begin. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Take a clean, dry tea towel and lay out on your kitchen surface. Lay out 6 sheets of filo, overlapping in a large rectangle on top, then brush all over with melted butter. Scatter over the crush biscuits and repeat for the rest of the filo. Brush again with butter. Spread a layer of mincemeat over the surface of the filo (leaving a gap around the edge), then grate the apple evenly over. I don't even bother peeling it! Scatter with 40g of the flaked almonds, then roll the marzipan into a cylinder shape and place against one of the shorter edges. Roll the filo tightly over the marzipan then continue rolling up into a fat sausage, lifting the tea towel as you go (to help you roll). 

Carefully transfer to a baking tray and brush with the remaining butter. Pinch each end together tightly to secure and sprinkle with brown sugar. Scatter over the last few almonds for decoration then bake in the centre of the oven for around 40-45 minutes. 

Once golden brown the strudel is ready, so remove from the oven and leave to cool for 20-30 minutes. Serve warm with whatever you fancy!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Aquafaba Almond Biscuits (Gluten Free)

Roll up roll up as I mystify, stupefy and (in some cases) terrify you with my baking powers! Marvel as I transmute the discarded water from a modest can of chickpeas into the whipped white of an egg! Pish, tosh and collywoddle you might say, but before you cry foul why not try it for yourself? It might just make you believe in the magic of baking. ;-)

Prep time: 30 Mins
Baking time: 15 Mins
70g Unsalted Water from a drained can of Chickpeas (AKA Aquafaba)
200g Ground Almonds
50g Gluten Free Plain Flour
125g Golden Caster Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Almond Extract
6 Glace Cherries (Halved)

We begin with the main talking point itself. The water from a can of chickpeas (aquafaba) contains proteins, which means when you whisk them vigorously they form a similar consistency to egg white.  You do need to give it some welly though so for this recipe I whisked mine for a good 10 minutes with an electric whisk, until soft peaks just start to form. Don't worry about the faint chickpea odour either, as it will all but disappear during baking.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl mix together the almonds, flour and caster sugar. Add the two extracts, then fold through the whipped aquafaba. Get your hands into the mixture and form into a sticky dough.

Using wet hands take a ball of the mixture, slightly larger than a golf ball. Flatten into a fat disk with your wet hands and place on your baking tray. Repeat for the rest of the mixture, evenly spaced apart until you have a dozen biscuits. Press a cherry half into the centre of each biscuit and bake in the centre of the oven for around 15 mins, until golden brown on top. When you are happy the biscuits are baked remove from the oven and leave on the tray for 30 minutes. Carefully peel each warm biscuit from the baking paper and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. The biscuits are done. Abracadabra!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Easy Gluten Free Fruit Cake

If you think I'm done with the Gluten Free recipes then I'm afraid you are mistaken. I have a few more yet to blast from my cake horn before I am done! This fruit cake is a deliciously indulgent GF alternative to the normal fruitcakes that are so deliciously gratifying to nom down on chilly day (or any other day for that matter). You can pick up GF plain flour so easily in most supermarkets these days but ping me if you are struggling and I'll give you some steer. ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 70-75 Mins
175g Unsalted butter (Softened)
200g Light Muscovado Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1hpd tsp Mixed Spice
100g Ground Almonds
1.5tbsp Brandy
150g Gluten Free Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
600g Luxury Mixed Fruit

To glaze
1tbsp Brandy
1tbsp Maple or Syrup

This is a really straightforward recipe so let's get to it! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 20cm springform tin (base and sides) with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla extract. Add the mixed spice and ground almonds, give them a quick mix through, then add the brandy. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix with vigour until evenly combined. Fold through the fruit and spoon the mixture into you prepared tin, evening to the edges. 

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 70-75 mins, until a sharp knife or metal skewer comes out cleanly when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven. Poke holes into the top of the cake then drizzle over the syrup, then the brandy and leave in the tin for around 60 mins to soak in and cool. Carefully remove the cake from the tin, peeling off the paper and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The cake is done. :-)

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Gluten Free Pear and Hazelnut Cake

I've been going gluten free recently, which was actually easier than I first thought (albeit more expensive). Treats such as this delicious cake have certainly played their part and this one is so good it deserves a place amongst any conventional equivalent. The pears are of course wonderful but the stars of the show are the hazelnuts. There's just something about a toasty hazelnut that is so hard to beat!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins
100g Ground Hazelnuts
200g Golden Caster Sugar
4 Large Eggs (Beaten)
100g Unsalted Butter (Melted and left to cool slightly)
1tsp Almond Extract
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Ground Almonds
4 Large and Slightly Firm Pears

Baking time, whoop whoop! Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5, grease a 23cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper. Take 25g of the ground almonds and sprinkle into the inside of the tin, so they stick to the greased sides. This will make it much easier to remove the cake from the tin when the time comes.

Whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and frothy, then add the melted butter and keep whisking. Don't be tempted to add red hot butter or you'll be left with scrambled eggs! Add the two extracts, then with a wooden spoon fold in the ground almonds and the 75g of leftover ground hazelnuts. Spoon into your prepared tin and gently ease to the edges.

Peel and core the pears, then slice lengthways, about the thickness of a pound coin. Arrange over the top of the cake mixture, pressing into the surface, about a third of the way down. I like doing this as you're left with a nice peary surprise when slicing! Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for around 60 mins, until a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

When the cake is cool carefully remove from the tin, peeling off the paper from the base. Slice and serve. Yum!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Oaty McOatcakes (Gluten Free)

As delicious as a cup of leaf tea is it's just not quite complete with something sweet on the side. These oatcakes are a delicious and simple alternative to the usual biscuity fair, with toasted oats and just the merest whisper of warm spice. You can make them as large or as small as you like, although remember to not make them too big for dunking! ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 15-20 Mins
100g Unsalted Butter (Cubed and at room temperature)
75g Golden Caster Sugar
150g Gluten Free Jumbo Oats
100g Oat Flour (Plus extra for dusting)
1tsp Mixed Spice
75g Sultanas
2-2.5tbsp Milk

Here we go! Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then mix in the oats, flour and spice, followed by the fruit. Drizzle in the milk a little at a time until you are left with a soft biscuit dough.

Dust a clean, dry surface with more flour, then using a floured rolling pin roll out your ball of dough until about 1/2cm thick. Using a biscuit cutter cut into rounds and place each on your prepared baking tray.

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 15 minutes until light golden brown. If you want them super crunchy at this point you can flip them over and bake for a further 5 minutes, but I personally like them with just a little give. Once baked remove from the oven, leave on the tray for around 20 minutes, then carefully lift each onto a wire rack until cool. Done and done!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Layered Apple Filo Tart

This filo tart is a delicious alternative to apple pie or crumble, although equally suited to lashings of custard of course! I concede there are a few phases involved in its preparation, but I promise you all are simple and straightforward. If you are allergic to nuts (or just don't like almonds) you can confidently press on without them, although I find this relatively meagre addition takes the finished article to the next level!

Prep time: 30 Mins
Baking time: 30-35 Mins
100g Golden Syrup
100g Golden Caster Sugar (Plus extra for sprinkling)
200ml Water
6 Dessert Apples (Peeled and cored)
The Zest and Juice of 1 Unwaxed Lemon
50g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
100g Sultanas
50g Toasted Flaked Almonds
10-12 Sheets Filo Pastry

Off we go! Place a saucepan on a medium heat and add the Syrup, Sugar and Water. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then turn up the heat and leave to bubble away until syrupy. I find a good indicator of this is when the bubbles start to hold their shape. Once the syrup has formed leave to one side to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and fish out a medium sized deep baking tray. Slice the apples finely and toss in the lemon juice and zest. Brush the base of the tin with melted butter and lay over a couple of sheets of filo, overlapping them slightly and letting them creep up the edges of the tin. Brush again with melted butter, evenly distribute a third of the apples, a third of the sultanas and a third of the almonds, then drizzle over a third of the syrup. Cover with another couple of sheets of filo, brush with melted butter and repeat the above. Repeat once more to use up the filling, then finally cover with some artistically screwed up sheets of filo, bringing any filo hanging over the edges back over the top of the tart. Brush all over with the last of the melted butter and sprinkle over a little golden caster sugar for a lovely crunch. 

Bake the tart in the middle of your oven for around 30-35 minutes, until golden brown on top and you're all done. Now, where's that custard?