Thursday, 19 July 2012

Sparkling raspberry jellies

Sparkling raspberry jellies
Did you know you could make jellies with sparkling wine? It's a long time since I tried, and I'd forgotten what a nice touch the bubbles are.


6 gelatine leaves (see notes below if you can't get these)
150ml raspberry cordial (or squash if you can't get cordial)
100g caster sugar
500ml sparkling wine
250g fresh raspberries


  • Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water.
  • Heat the cordial with the sugar in a saucepan over low heat to dissolve the sugar.
  • Remove the gelatine leaves from the water and gently squeeze out excess water.
  • Add them to the cordial mixture and stir until the gelatine has dissolved.
  • Remove from heat and leave to cool for about half an hour.
  • Stir in sparkling wine, but gently, so as not to stir out all the bubbles.
  • Plop the raspberries into 8 glasses and pour the mixture over. See notes below if you want to get a bit fancier.
  • Serve in the glasses with a dollop of creme fraiche/cream/ice cream and a mint leaf.
For a less posh version, or if you can't get hold of gelatine leaves, use raspberry jelly (jello to you Americans). Leave out the caster sugar and use just enough boiling water to dissolve the jelly. If you're using block jelly/jello rather than powdered, you can dissolve it in the microwave with no added water. Then continue as for the rest of the recipe.

For a more posh version, plop only half the raspberries in to the glasses and then pour only half the jelly mixture over them. Set the remaining jelly mixture aside, in a relatively warm place, and put the glasses into the fridge for two hours. Then top up with the remaining raspberries and the rest of the jelly mixture. That will give you a layered look. 

Friday, 6 July 2012

Gluten-free Chocolate Orange Cake

It's great to see Karyn back in the kitchen after her break, and great to be back guesting here too. I recently discovered that not only do I have an intolerance to cow's milk proteins, but I'm also intolerant to wheat. Now as strange as it might seem, rather than filling me with dread, my first thought was 'oh good, I can play with all my favourite recipes again!' I now have some yummy savoury and sweet biscuits recipes and a tasty brownie recipe in the bag, but wanted something a bit more 'special occasion', and was really just waiting for the excuse to try something. Thursday was National Charity Day at my company, where every office, all over the UK, spends much of the day doing stuff to raise money for local charities...and one of the events at my office was a cake competition. So here's my entry- didn’t win, but sold out fast when it was sliced and sold to raise even more money. Of course I had to make 2 - one for work and one for the family!


For the cake

1 large orange (or as I had to hand, 3 clementines!)
200g castor sugar
Either 200g ground almonds Or 100g ground almonds and 100g polenta (this gives a nice nutty texture)
6 eggs
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder (if you're not making this for someone with a gluten problem, then use plain old baking powder!)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
25g cocoa powder

For the syrup and filling

1 large orange
50g castor sugar
100g good dark chocolate


Put one of the oranges (or all of the clementines) into a pan of water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 2 hours (Or until the fruit peel is nice and soft).
Grease the bottom and side of 2 cake sandwich tins, and line the bases with greased baking parchment or greaseproof paper. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
When the orange (or clementines) is ready, roughly chop into big pieces and remove any seeds. Then bung the whole lot, peel and all, into a food processor and whiz until it’s pulped. Divide the pulp roughly into 3, and set 2 lots to one side.
Add half of the eggs, ground almonds, polenta (if you’re using it) baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and sugar to the pulp left in the processor and whizz until mixed. Pour the runnier than usual batter mixture into one of the cake tins.
Put 1 of the other portions of pulp into the processor (don't bother to clean it first!) and add the other halves of all the ingredients and the cocoa powder, and whizz till mixed. Pour that into the other cake tin.
Bake both cakes for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check after 30 minutes, and if it's getting a bit too brown, put some tinfoil on the top. I used a fan oven and mine were done after 45 minutes. Leave to cool completely in the tins.
Meanwhile you need to make thin little strips of zest from the other orange. You can either use a julienne maker, a zester that allows you to remove strips of zest, or a vegetable peeler, and then cut those thicker slices into thin strips. Bung them, the juice of the orange and the sugar into a pan. Boil up together to make a thin syrup.
Use a cocktail stick to make lots of holes in the top of the chocolate cake.
Melt the chocolate (either in a bowl over a pan of water, or in the microwave) and beat the remaining orange pulp into the melted chocolate. It does get a slightly lumpy texture, but who cares when it tastes so good.
Put the orange cake onto a plate, spread a thick layer of the chocolate/orange mix onto it and put the chocolate cake on top. Spoon about half the syrup carefully over the top, giving each spoonful time to sink into all the little holes! Then put the pan back on the heat and boil until the syrup is sticky. Spoon the thick syrup carefully over the top making sure the thin strips of zest sort of gather in the centre - or at least don't fall off the sides!

So decadent you don't really need to add anything - but I bet it's heaven warmed very slightly with clotted cream!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Lettuce cups with turkey breast and edamame beans

Lettuce cups
I've been on a diet, lately, and was appalled to discover how many calories there were in a single, unadorned tortilla. I've also been experiencing some problems with some wheat products. So I was really pleased to come across a recipe for lettuce cups which I have predictably tweaked and am about to share with you.


500g turkey breast or similar lean white meat
30ml sweet chilli sauce
45ml soy sauce
15ml sesame oil
100g frozen edamame (soya) beans
15ml olive oil
3-4 spring onions
Fresh mint leaves (some)
Fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves (some)
30ml omega mix (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds)
Lettuce leaves (gem lettuce for preference, but go with what you like/can get)
Lime wedges


  • Mix together chilli sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil
  • Add the meat and marinate for about 15 minutes (longer if the meat pieces are thick)
  • Chop the spring onions and steam together with the soya beans until just done and then drain, rinse in cold water and set aside
  • Remove the meat from the marinade (but don't throw that away) and fry in the olive oil until done through.
  • Remove the meat from the pan and slice finely.
  • Into the pan, place the veg you set aside earlier, the sliced meat, the marinade, the herbs (chopped), the omega mix and a small splash of water.
  • Give that lot a quick stir to heat through.
  • Arrange individual lettuce leaves on a plate and spoon the mixture onto each.
  • Fold the edges of the lettuce leaves over and eat with your hands as you would a tortilla.
Because my strapping sons can't be doing with this sensible food, I chopped up their lettuce leaves and served the meat mixture over a bed of egg noodles.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Lime sponge with lime curd and marshmallow topping

The coconut is optional
A while ago, a friend had a birthday. Friends have a way of doing that. And when they do, it's rather fun to bake them a cake. Not just any old cake, but something unusual. So this is what I decided on on this occasion.

Oven temperature

...for the sponge

125g butter
120g caster sugar
2 eggs
120g self-raising flour (or plain flour plus10mls of baking powder)
Grated zest of 2 limes

...for the curd

I have already provided the recipe for this curd, but for the sake of convenience, let's include it here
250ml sugar
2.5ml salt
60ml cornflour
250ml lime juice
Grated zest of two limes
15ml lemon juice
45ml butter

...for the topping
375ml sugar
2 egg whites
pinch salt
80ml water
pinch cream of tartar
5ml vanilla

I would advise you to make the curd first, so that it has time to cool while you bake the cake. That way, they should both be ready for use at about the same time.

...for the curd
  • Place the salt, sugar and cornflour together in a saucepan and gradually stir in the orange juice.
  • Stir over a medium heat until the mixture becomes glossy and thick.
  • Remove from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well.
  • Allow to cool completely before spreading on the cake or it will sink in to the sponge rather than forming a filling between your layers.
...for the sponge
  • Cream butter and sugar until soft and light.
  • Stir in grated zest.
  • Beat the eggs well and stir into the egg butter mixture. If it starts to curdle a bit, sprinkle in a bit of the flour to calm it down.
  • Sift and fold in the flour.
  • Divide between two cake pans and bake for about 20 minutes, or until done (test with skewer, or by 'spring-back' method - cake should spring back when gently poked with a forefinger).
  • Allow to cool.
...for the topping
  • Combine the sugar, water, egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in the top of a double boiler. No, I don't have one either, so I use a bowl (which I later place over a saucepan of water). It works.
  •  Beat well.
  • Place over rapidly boiling water and beat constantly until the mixture is able to form stiff peaks. This should take about 7-10 minutes. And I don't need to urge to to exercise caution when using your electric beater near both a hot cooker plate and water, do I?
  • Remove from the heat, and beat in the vanilla.
  • Keep beating until the mixture is cool and of the right consistency for spreading on a cake.
...bringing it all together
  • I like to place the flat (bottom) surfaces of a layer cake together - it sits better that way. So I turn one layer 'upside down'.
  • Spread the curd liberally over the flat side of one layer.
  • Top with the other layer, flat (bottom) side down.
  • Spread the marshmallow topping all over the top and sides of the cake.
  • You can choose to sprinkle with dessicated coconut at this point.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Nutella fudgesicles

Not a great photo, but you get the idea!
So... it's been a long old time, hasn't it? My life has been transformed yet again since my last post and some tough lessons have been learned.

But let's set that aside for now, because I simply have to share with you this delicious and far-easier-than-pie recipe. I came across it on Daily Waffle via Pinterest. The original recipe listed an ingredient I'd never heard of, so I thought I'd try a substitute. It so totally worked. And I think several other things might work, too, so I'll add a list at the end of things you might like to try.

But before we get down to things can I just make one thing very clear? Nutella is not a health food. Okay? It's healthier than many things, but it's crammed full of sugar. I mean, there's even been a class action on the subject. So please don't think that these fudgesicles constitute a healthy snack for your family and then come and sue me when that turns out not to be the case. This is a treat. Okay?


375ml Alpro soya milk - chocolate flavour
125ml Nutella


Whisk the ingredients together and then freeze for at least a couple of hours until set. Literally, that's it.

If you have a set of those popsicle moulds, they're ideal. The recipe is enough for 5 popsicles using my moulds. But you could use an ice cube tray, with or without lolly sticks.

I have used recipes for frozen treats before and they form crystals or granules, which I don't like. This recipe didn't. Not even slightly. The texture was sublime. Sublime I tell you.

So. Now to the alternatives. Instead of the Alpro soya milk, you could try:

  • Flavoured cow's milk
  • Unflavoured cow's milk, and then add a few drops of vanilla/almond/peppermint/whatever essence
  • Almond milk
  • Rice milk
  • Coconut milk... or cream
  • [insert brilliant idea here]

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

By way of explanation

I owe you an explanation. We had a good thing going, you and I. And then I just disappeared. That was rude, and I'm sorry.

So what happened?

Well, early in September, my family of four became a family of five.

Normally, new arrivals to a family come with several months' advance notice, and weigh in at about 3.5kgs. Not always, as it turns out. Some of them arrive fully grown.

Skye is 19 years old, stands at least 6'1"(185cm) and weighed a very scrawny 55kgs (less than 9 stone or around 120lbs). I am pleased to say that he now weighs considerably more than that, and he continues to gain weight and build muscle mass. He has had a very difficult life, and is torn between a burning desire to turn things around and an abject fear of losing his identity.

Originally, he just needed a place to stay. He had arrived in our town - having walked 40 miles from another city - in search of his estranged father because he had nowhere else to go. He had exhausted all his other options, and was in a rather dark place. Living with his father (for reasons I am exploring in a book he and I are writing together, but do not feel released to reveal here) was a very stressful and traumatic experiment. He was on the brink of returning to a life on the streets of London. Yes, I said 'returning'.

By this time, he had befriended our sons, and was spending many nights sleeping on a mattress on the floor of my elder son's bedroom.

Permit me a proud mother's moment to interrupt my narrative in order to brag a little: my elder son has the smallest bedroom in the house. A mattress on the floor in there takes up all remaining floor space, but this has never stopped him from offering friends the opportunity to stay over when visiting the town (of course, when the friends are girls we have to make a different arrangement, but that is another story). We have several regular visitors, and have grown very fond of them. By the time we became aware of Skye's plans to head for London, many was the morning that I would go into my elder son's bedroom and find him sleeping on the mattress on the floor, while Skye had the bed.

But back to my story.

We couldn't stand by and let this lad head back to a life that had nearly killed him on more than one occasion, so we converted my studio in the loft into a bedroom and offered him a home with us. I checked with my younger son that he was okay with this arrangement, and he said two things: first, he had had a dream in which he had introduced someone to "my brothers, Björn and Skye" and secondly, that he believed that God had sent Skye to us for us to love.

People keep telling us what a wonderful thing we're doing, but that's not how it seems to us. And actually, I wish they'd stop. There was a while there when I started to 'believe my press' as the saying goes, and very nearly broke the fragile, precious thing we hold in our hands as a consequence. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might" (Ecc 9:10). So we do this, and we do it unstintingly. It isn't always plain sailing, as you can imagine. There have been and will continue to be some very rocky moments, and new challenges around every corner. But we love him. Simply put: I used to have two boys, and now I have three.
From left: Skye (19), Torvald (18), Björn (20)
His background is almost as far removed from ours as it possible to be, but I don't give a fig. He never had a champion before, but he does now, and woe betide the person who threatens, insults or judges him!

So what does this have to do with you, you might ask?

Simply this. I have been so occupied with the change in my family's structure and dynamic, that I have stepped down from several of my projects, including this one.

I just felt that you had the right to know.

Oh... and our younger son now frequently introduces people to "my brothers, Björn and Skye."

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Plum jam

I was recently given a large bag of slightly overripe plums, so I did what one does with large quantities of fruit that won't get eaten. I made jam.

Before we get started on the actual recipe, I should just debunk a few jam myths:
  • 'Pound for pound' for all jams, i.e. use a pound of sugar per pound of fruit. Not all fruits work well with these proportions.
  • Only use fresh fruit, preferably under ripe. You can make jam with frozen fruit, and you can also use very ripe fruit, but you might want to add a source of pectin.
Plums - as many as you have
Sugar - equal weight to plums (if you ca get preserving sugar, great, but it's not essential)
Water 30ml per 500g of plums
Lemon juice - half a lemon per 500g of plums. If your plums are very ripe, up the lemon juice quantity
Jam jars with lids (see below for yield information)

  • Wash plums.
  • Place the plums and water in a large saucepan (better to err on the large side, you will need extra space when it boils up) and stew slowly until the skins are soft. I have a tendency to assault them with a wooden spoon during this stage, to release the juices.
  • Add the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Add the lemon juice and boil rapidly without stirring until the jam reaches 105C (220F). I use a sugar thermometer, but there are other ways of testing a jam for readiness. I found that this stage went very quickly for purple plums, but it varies from fruit to fruit and also depends on the ripeness of the fruit.
  • While the jam is boiling, sterilise the jars. You can expect a yield of 1.66 times the weight of the fruit you used. Make sure you have enough bottles!
  • Before bottling the jam, prepare the bottles with boiling water, or they will crack from the heat of the jam.
  • Fill the jars right up and immediately screw the lids on. As the jam cools, it will shrink slightly, drawing the lid down and sealing the jars properly.
  • Wait for the jam to cool and set and enjoy on toast with cheese.