28 March 2008

Confessions of a recipe addict

I have a recipe 'habit', like most food lovers I have a large, ever growing collection of cookery books but I have a bigger collection of 'tear outs'. Recipes collected, over the past 5 years, from magazines, newspapers, food packets. In fact I can hardly leave a printed recipe alone, they are currently housed in a ring binder, so full it no longer closes and many times I have tried to organise and clear out the deadwood but it is such a mammoth task and to be honest I usually get distracted by a delicious sounding recipe and abandon the organising to cook it.

It was last week whilst searching for a granola recipe that I realised I hardly ever cook from this ever growing collection, flicking through the hundreds of recipes, ranging from puddings, cakes, pasta, fish I realised there must be some absolute gems of recipes amongst them, and probably a lot of not so good ones. Time to get cooking and clearing.

Meringue cupcakes:

How could I have not made these sooner, this recipe was folded up and stuck in the back of a plastic wallet when I pulled it out I gasped, just as I had when I ripped out the magazine years ago. 'Cupcakes' made from meringue, sliced in half and filled with a boozy mascarpone mixture. The magazine I ripped this from suggests serving these instead of a pavlova.

Meringue cupcakes

3 large egg whites
50g caster sugar
250g mascarpone
250ml double cream, lightly whipped
2 tbsp icing sugar
Splash of Marsala

Preheat oven to 130c/ gas mark 1/2
Line a muffin tin with 6 paper cases
In a bowl mix egg whites with a pinch of salt til they form soft peaks.
Whisk in sugar, spoon by spoon, until the mixture is stiff and shiny.
Spoon into muffin cases, cook for two hours and cool in the oven.
In a bowl mix mascarpone till softened, stir in whipped cream.
Into this mix the icing sugar and a splash of Marsala.
Split the meringue in half and fill with the mascarpone cream.

Pear and almond tart:
Another tear out, this tart is delicious and very simple to make, a digestive biscuit base topped with a almond sponge and studded with pears (I used tinned, oh the shame, lol) which made it even easier as it involved no peeling or blanching of the pears.

This tart was very light and the contrast of texture between crumbly biscuit base, light almond sponge and juicy pears was wonderful. Although next time I may omit the flour from the sponge and make a frangipane instead.

225g digestive biscuits, crushed
75g butter, melted
100g butter
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
100g S/R flour
100g ground almonds
1 1/2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tin of pears (or 2 comice pears, pealed, chopped and blanched)
caster sugar to sprinkle.

Mix biscuit crumbs with butter and press into a 30cm flan tin. Chill.
To make the filling, beat the butter and sugar till pale and creamy, beat in eggs, one at a time, mix in flour, almonds, milk and vanilla extract.
Pour cake mix over the biscuit base and arrange pears around the outside of the tart. Sprinkle with caster sugar and bake, at 200c / gas mark 6, for 25 minutes.

Summer berry cheesecake:

One lot of recipes I have sorted is the cheesecake collection, strange really as I don't really make cheesecakes. I have a variety of recipes for baked, unbaked and diet versions, this one caught my eye, a unbaked summer berry cheesecake.

My son helped make this and it is surprising we had enough filling left as he found it delicious and ate most of it straight from the bowl. Usual biscuit base, a cream cheese and whipped cream filling and a summer berry topping, as we are only just in spring here I substituted fresh berries for summer fruit compote.


250g digestive biscuits, crushed into crumbs

75g melted butter


400g cream cheese

250ml double cream, lightly whipped

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp icing sugar

500g fruit compote

Mix biscuit crumbs with melted butter. Press into a 20cm spring form tin, chill.

Stir cream cheese till soften, stir in whipped cream, vanilla extract and icing sugar.

Spread over the base, chill for a few hours.

Before serving, unclip the tin and pour over the fruit compote.

The three recipes I cooked were all really simple and all made from my usual fridge and store cupboard ingredients, the meringue cupcakes were really good and looked impressive too, I enjoyed the pear tart but as I said, would try it with a frangipane topping next time, the cheesecake was delicious and very quick and easy to make, these recipes will go into a 'kept' folder, only a few hundred more to work my way through.....

23 March 2008


I love spring, full of promise of new life and new starts. The first spring flowers and the buds on the trees are always a welcoming sight, finally throwing back the curtains and letting the bright spring light shine through. My first born was a spring baby, born just before Easter...I loved pushing my pram through parks full of sunshine yellow daffodils, one of the happiest times of my life...early spring always reminds me of that time.

I always mark Easter with a leg of lamb, lamb and spring time go and hand in hand but it is very fitting for Easter.

Nigella writes in 'Feast': 'The word 'Easter is supposed to derive from 'Eostre', the Norse Goddess of spring and Rebirth but not only as a mark in the calendar, it shares much with the Jewish Passover, from the Paschal lamb (though in the latter to signify the sacrifice offered to God rather than by God) to the name itself: the Hebrew for passover is pesach; Easter is pesach; Easter is paques in French, Pasqua in Italian.'

Our Easter lunch is slow roasted leg of lamb, roasted on a bed of onions with garlic and fresh mint served with sticky garlic potatoes (from Feast), my kids have issues with eating lamb but both decided it was delicious and took seconds....what more can you ask for. The potatoes are wonderful, I love new potatoes but cooked this way, half mashed half roast.....delicious!

Pudding caused a bit of a dilemma, I had promised my daughter that I would bake the Easter nest cake in 'Feast' she has had her heart set on this cake for a few years now but a whole host of family events have always got in the way, this year I was going to bake it....well, I was until I actually read the recipe, I then realised that this recipe was the exact same as Nigella's Cloud cake (from Nigella Bites) I HATE Cloud cake! I had heard good things about it, drooled over it in the program, baked it...and was bitterly disappointed. It just wasn't for me, or anyone else here to be honest as it sat, left alone for days before being binned. That never happens, lol.
Instead, I fiddled with a recipe I had ripped out of a magazine ages ago, Chocolate caramel cake. This was just the thing to round off a Easter lunch, a chocolate sponge, filled with vanilla cream and Dulce de leche with a side serving off Mini eggs, full of unnecessary calories but Oh so good!

chocolate caramel cake:
225g butter
225g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
200g plain flour
25g good quality cocoa
1tsp baking powder
3-4 tbsp milk
250ml double cream, lightly whipped
5 tbsp ducle de leche
cocoa and sugar coated eggs to decorate.

Pre heat oven to 180c
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla in a mixer.
Add eggs, one by one adding a spoon of flour after each.
Add remaining flour, cocoa and baking powder.
Add milk.
Split between two 8in baking tins and bake for 25 - 30 minutes.
Cool and sandwich together with the dulce de leche and double cream. Sprinkle with cocoa and decorate with sugar coated eggs.

20 March 2008


Easter bonnets
Aren't these pretty. I was leisurely flicking through a supermarket magazine at the weekend when the page fell open at these, my daughter and I both gasped 'Aaawww' 'Wow' and we decided they would be perfect for Easter.
So today, Good Friday, the kids and I are getting ready for Easter. We painted eggs, made Hot cross buns and these very cute Easter bonnets.

Easter bonnets:
150g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g icing sugar
50g cold butter
finely grated zest 1 lemon
1 large egg, separated
For the bonnets:
12 marshmallows
1 tbsp apricot jam, warmed
juice 1 lemon
350g icing sugar, sifted
a few drops of pink and yellow food colouring
ribbons to decorate

Put the flour, icing sugar, butter and lemon zest into a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the egg yolk to the mixture. In a small bowl loosen the egg white with a fork and add half to the mixture. Briefly whiz adding more egg white if necessary.
Chill for half an hour.
Preheat oven to 180c /gas mark 6.
Remove the dough from the fridge, flatten slightly, then roll out on a lightly floured surface to 3-4 mm thick. Using a 3in plain cutter, stamp out as many biscuits as you can and place on a baking sheet, leaving at least 2.5cm gap between them.
Prick the top of each biscuit with a fork and bake for 8-10mins or until a light olden colour.
Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
To decorate:
slightly flatten each marshmallow, spread a little jam on the underside of each and sit one, slightly off centre on each biscuit.
In a bowl, stir the lemon juice into the icing sugar, mixing to a smooth, slightly runny consistency, stir in a few drops of food colouring.
Spoon the icing over the biscuits and leave to set.
When set, decorate with ribbons and artificial flowers.

I must add that the photo really doesn't do them justice they are very cute and extremely simple, the biscuit dough was a joy to work with, it came together very easily and held it's shape time and time again even after the kids had rolled and re - rolled it. They were also very simple, especially for children, to decorate. Cant say I enjoyed eating them, not a fan of icing, but my children loved them, will definitely become a Easter tradition here.

We also made Easter egg nests, they were really good. Made with shredded wheat, child friendly milk chocolate and sugar coated eggs, which mysteriously vanished one by one....

18 March 2008

Oh my! Apple pie!

I had to start with a family favourite, my apple pie.

My apple pie evolved after years of baking 'not quite good enough' apple pies. I had tried all combinations, cooking apples, eating apples, half and half of each, shortcrust pastry, sweet shortcrust pastry, crumble topping on a pie base, although all the pies were edible they weren't delicious. Eventually I stumbled across a Jamie Oliver recipe which gave me hope, after a bit of tinkering I made a perfect apple pie.

This pie is, for me, the perfect combination, not too tart, not too sweet due to a mixture of half cooking and half eating apples cooked til just soft in water with cinnamon and brown sugar added, once cooked drained and cooled completely.

The pastry, a rich, crumbly, sweet shortcrust bound with egg yolks rather than water and sweetened with caster sugar is, although a pain to roll out, wonderful against the natural tartness of the apples. The egg yolks add a richness to the pastry which is short but a little cakey too.

Dusted with cinnamon and demerara sugar before a slow bake in the oven, perfection.

Whilst baking it creates the most delicious, homely aromas. I always hope that in years to come the smell of homemade cinnamony apple pie will instantly remind my children of home.

For me apple pie must be eaten with very good quality vanilla ice cream although in desperate times double cream or custard will suffice.

Oh my! Apple pie!

6 Bramley apples

3 eating apples

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon


10 oz plain flour

7 1/2 oz butter, diced

4 1/2oz caster sugar

2 egg yolks


2 tbsp demerara sugar

egg / milk glaze

Preheat oven to 150c

Grease a 8 inch spring form cake tin.

In a mixer, combine flour, butter and caster sugar, add egg yolks and a splash of water (if necessary) to bind, leave to rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Peel and quarter apples, put in a pan with brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and a little water. Simmer of 10 Min's or until apples are just tender.

Drain and leave to cool completely.

Divide pastry into two, roll out half and line baking tin, it is very fragile you will need to patch it up.

Fill with apples, sprinkle with remaining cinnamon. Roll out remaining pastry and cover the pie, pinching the edges together to seal.

Glaze the pie with egg/milk wash, pierce top with fork and cover with the demerara sugar.

Bake for 45 - 50 minutes.

Serve hot with creamy vanilla ice cream.