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Our Italian Feast Supper Club and a recipe for brutti ma buoni biscuits…

We were very excited to hold our July Plate Lickers Supper Club in a brand new and very original venue…Lynne Strover Gallery, an independent gallery run from Lynne’s beautiful home…

Lynne Strover Gallery

Our guests were seated amongst the sculptures and artwork by Belynda Sharples to enjoy their ‘Italian Feast’ inspired by mine and Ivana’s recent trip to Umbria and Tuscany (blogged here)…

Tables set at Lynne Strover Gallery

Tables set at Lynne Strover Gallery

Here’s a sneaky peak of the menu to whet your appetite for the pictures to follow. I’ve also shared a recipe for ‘brutti ma buoni’ …delicious hazelnut biscuits, crunchy on the outside but with a lovely chewy centre.

But without further ado, welcome to Plate Lickers Italian Feast…

Our Italian Feast Menu

Rows upon rows of cocktails awaited our guests arrival…we had made amaretto from scratch and served it with a touch of lemon juice and the mandatory cocktail cherry…

Homemade amaretto sours cocktails

Ameretto sours cocktail

These were accompanied by homemade sourdough crostini topped with wild boar salami, brought back from Italy and our homemade cow and goats milk ricotta with a sprinkling of decadent truffle salt…


Our guests were a friendly bunch and got chatting right away…

Chatty guests

Once everyone was seated we did a little welcome speech and appear to also be doing our best air hostess impressions :)…

Welcoming the guests.

before squirreling ourselves away in the kitchen to serve up the starter of courgette and rocket salad with aged pecorino and dressed with the peppery olive oil made by our beloved agriturismo hosts and a drizzle of homemade truffle honey…

courgette and rocket salad with aged pecorino and homemade truffle honey

Courgette and rocket salad with aged pecorino and homemade truffle honey

Next up was the main course of traditional ragu, which just got better and better the longer we cooked it, served on a bed of polenta with chargrilled chicory. Not the most photogenic dish but tasty all the same…

Ragu with polenta and chargrilled chicory

The dessert was peach and olive oil cake served with pinenut semi freddo, which seemed to be the favourite dish of the night. Ivana has already blogged the semi freddo recipe for you here.

Peach and oliveoil cake with pine nut semi freddo

and last but not least were the little brutti ma buoni biscuits, which perfectly fit their translation…’ugly but good’.

Brutti ma buoni biscuits

I’m a big biscotti fan and whenever I saw biscotti on the shelves in Italy I would also see packets of these brutti ma buoni. So as soon as I got home I started researching them and found this lovely recipe by Dan Lepard. The method is one I have never seen before but it produced the most amazing texture that even makes the arduous task of peeling hazelnuts worth it :).

To make a batch of about 20 small biscuits you can halve the recipe and will need…

150g toasted, skinned almonds (either buy them skinned and toast them in the oven for a few minutes or follow my instructions below if you buy them skin-on)

150g caster sugar

3 egg whites

75g ground almonds

1.5 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cocoa powder

So first, if you have bought the more commonly available, skin on hazelnuts, you will need to toast and skin them…not my favourite task I have to admit but it enhances their flavour and the skin can be fairly bitter, so it’s definitely advisable.

Preheat you oven to 200 degrees c and lay the hazelnuts out on a baking tray. Pop them in the oven for just 5 minutes, keeping an eye on them in case they start to burn. Then take a few nuts at a time and either loosen the skins by shaking them in a wire sieve or rubbing them in a teatowel. Once they are all skinned you’re ready for the biscuit making…

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees c and line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Divide the hazelnuts approximately in half and put one half in a food processor, save the other half for later.

Add the sugar to the food processor and blitz it until the two are ground together but still coarse. Add the egg whites, almonds, vanilla extract and cocoa powder and blitz again until it forms a sludgy looking puree.

Now, this is the slightly strange bit…pour the puree into a saucepan. Roughly chop the remaining half of the hazelnuts and add them too. Put the pan on a high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture gets darker and thicker. You’ll know when it’s ready because it will hold it’s shape.

Using a couple of teaspoons, take a blob of the biscuit mixture (approx 2cm diameter) and place on the prepared trays. They don’t have to be uniform at all, the more rustic the better in my book. Make sure you leave at least 1 cm between the biscuits so they don’t get stuck together whilst cooking.

Brutti ma buoni biscuits read for the oven.

Brutti ma buoni biscuits read for the oven.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until they are golden brown. If you can bear to, it’s best to wait until they are cool before tucking in. But then there needn’t be any stopping you 🙂

Brutti ma buoni biscuits

Brutti ma buoni biscuits

I would like to say a big thankyou to Lynne Strover for letting Plate Lickers descend on her gallery for the evening, to our guests for being as enthusiastic and wonderful as ever, to Ozzy for the use of his beautiful photographs and to Ivana, the co-hostess with the mostess!

Bring on August’s supperclub!

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The return of Sweeteasy and a boozy rum soaked fruitcake recipe…

Recently, I hosted my third Sweeteasy…I really love plotting and planning my menus and even though actually making the 3 cocktail inspired cakes and the 3 cake inspired cocktails for 30 people is pretty hard work it’s the kind of hard work I love and when the evening finally rolls around, I get my glad rags on and I begin welcoming my guests it is so worth it!

Here’s the menu that awaited my guests…

Sweeteasy #3 menu

To make the gooseberry and elderflower fool martini I used gooseberries from my parents garden and locally foraged elderflower to make a puree, to which I added gin and some sugar syrup to take the edge off.

From this…

Gooseberry and elderflower

To this…

Gooseberry and elderflower fool martini

These were followed closely by my ‘bramble’ friands, a light almond sponge made with egg whites and blackberries topped with a blackberry and gin glaze…

@daisyduked photo - Bramble friands with blackberry and gin glaze

Next up was a honey bourbon milk punch made with, as you may surmise, Jim Beam honey bourbon, milk, cream, vanilla, sugar and a grating of nutmeg…

@daisyduked photo - Honey bourbon milk punch

Served alongside a very special experiment…stout brownies! But these weren’t made using just any old stout, I used Moonshine Brewery‘s ‘Hot Numbers Stout’ the result of a very exciting collaboration made with coffee roasted in the Hot Numbers Roastery

Stout brownie

At this point, I mixed things up a bit and went off piste on the menu order, serving up the limoncello tiramisu. I made a big batch of homemade limoncello and used some to make a zabaglione, which I stirred into thick, creamy mascarpone along with beaten egg whites to make it floaty light! This was accompanied by homemade ladyfinger biscuits…

@lazygiraffe photo - limoncello tiramisu

and a miniature bottle of chilled limoncello…

Limoncello tiramisu with homemade ladyfinger biscuits and limoncello

Last but not least, guests were served my fruitcake infused rum daquiri…

@suziemakes rum daquiri photo

I made it by pouring Havana Club Anejo 3 Anos rum over a mixture of sultanas, raisins, almonds, sliced orange, a vanilla pod and a couple of cinnamon sticks and leaving it to infuse for a few days…simple but oh so effective…



Once the rum was strained and ready, I used it to make a traditional daquiri by adding fresh lemon juice and a dash of sugar syrup. I had a good chinwag with my guests as the evening came to a close and the fruitcake rum daquiri came out on top as the favourite cocktail of the night although the gooseberry and elderflower fool martini was a close contender and some people just couldn’t decide, which I saw as a good sign! 🙂

If you’re interested in hearing about Sweeteasy and my other events you can sign up to receive Afternoon Tease news here. I’d like to thank my guests Deepa (@lazygiraffe), Daisy (@daisyduked) and Suzie (@suziemakes) for allowing me to use their lovely photographs of the evening. You can also read Deepa’s take on Sweeteasy here.

But hang on, I’m not finished yet…

after straining the rum for the daquiri I was left with an awful lot of juicy rum laden fruit. I really didn’t want to see it go to waste and for a while had been thinking that I needed a good fruitcake in my repertoire, so I got researching and flicking through my old cookbooks and decided to use Mary Berry’s boiled fruitcake as a base…if I’m honest the fact that it was called a ‘Quick boiled fruitcake’ and only needed to be cooked for under 2 hours as opposed to 4 and also the fact that it contained condensed milk…one of my favourite sweet-toothed ingredients swung it for me!

It was a very moist and light (in colour) cake and with so much of my 3 day rum soaked fruit in, it really packed a punch!

Rum soaked boiled fruitcake

To make it you need…

397 g tin condensed milk

150 g butter

800 g of dried fruit (Mary suggests 225g raisins, 225g sultanas, 175g currants and 175g chopped glace cherries, however feel free to mix it up and be adventurous with your selection of dried fruit. My addition of figs gave a lovely texture to the cake. Soaking the fruit in booze is optional but I highly recommend it!)

225 g self raising flour

2 tsp ground mixed spice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 130 degrees (150 if not a fan oven) and grease and line a deep 8 inch cake tin.

Simply put the fruit, condensed milk and butter in a large saucepan…

Rum soaked fruit ready to boil

and place over a low heat until the butter has melted. Make sure you stir it well and don’t let it stick to the bottom. Simmer it gently for 5 minutes and then take it off the heat to cool for 10 minutes, stirring it every now and again…

Rum soaked fruit boiled and ready for action

Put the flour and spices into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and add the eggs along with the cooled gloopy fruit mixture and stir together until well combined but try not to overmix it. Pour it into the prepared tin and level the top…

Rum soaked fruit cake ready to go in the oven...

Now pop it in the oven for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. It’s ready when it’s light golden brown on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. If you’re not quite happy that it’s ready, just put it back in for 5 minutes at a time and repeat the skewer test until you’re satisfied that it’s cooked to perfection :).

Rum soaked fruit cake fresh out of the oven...

Leave it to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out to cool completely on a wire rack.

The chunkiness of my fruit made it a joy to eat but made it a little tricky to slice neatly…

The first slice...

I’ve never been a huge fruit cake fan, but this one has converted me. It also keeps beautifully, so if you haven’t wolfed it down in a couple of days, not to worry…just keep it in a well sealed container and it’ll be fine for a week (or so).



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Yoghurt, lime and pistachio cake with rosewater and lime drizzle…

My love of festivals (of the music variety) has been well documented on this blog as has my tradition of festival baking (here, here and here). I managed to get the first of this year’s festivals under my belt pretty early on when I headed to Meadowlands in East Sussex at the end of May. It wasn’t just the festival we were going for, it was also my friend Georgie’s ‘Hen Don’t’. As you may have surmised from the name, she’d stressed to her Bridesmaids that she didn’t want a traditional hen do, which was totally fine with me. The thought of having to walk around in sparkly feather boas and sashes (and the rest…) fills me with dread. It kind of goes against my festival morals but we had decided to ‘glamp’, which involved turning up at the car park, having our bags carried for us, being housed in a lovely bell tent with jute flooring and sleeping on an air bed clad in lovely soft duvets and bedding…but I’m not going to lie to you…it was amazing!

IMG_5961[1] IMG_5963[1]

I’m getting a bit waylaid here…back to cake!

A few of us were asked to bring some baked goods with us so that we could have a little afternoon tea on Saturday afternoon. I’d had a bit of a busy week in the run up to the festival but I try to grab every opportunity I can to test some of the recipes that I find in cook books, rip out of magazines, find online and take photos of. I’m continually hoarding these recipe snippets in a ‘must try’ pile, and here was my chance to give a couple a go. I went for a yoghurt, lime and pistachio cake with rosewater and lime drizzle (if you’ve had enough of my wittering you can just scroll to the bottom of the post for the recipe)…

Yoghurt, lime and pistachio cake 2

and a white chocolate, almond and blueberry blondie…

White chocolate, almond and blueberry blondie

Please forgive me for the rubbish standard of the photos…I’m using the excuse that all I had to cut the cakes with was a blunt butter knife and…I was in the middle of a field! 🙂

Along with some delicious Malteaser fridge cake and squidgy brownies we had a pretty good spread…

Festival afternoon tea

Festival afternoon tea

It went some way to lining our stomachs and powering our dancing later on that evening!

After getting home and recovering from the weekend of festival excess it wasn’t long before I made the yoghurt, lime and pistachio cake again. This time I managed to take a much better photo…

Yoghurt, lime & pistachio cake

It’s a pretty unassuming looking cake but the fragrant flavours all work really well together and the drizzle, together with the inclusion of ground almonds makes it exceptionally moist. It benefits from being wrapped up and kept in the fridge for a day or two, which is handy if you need to make it in advance as long as you can refrain from pilfering a slice in the middle of the night Nigella stylee!

A slice

I found the recipe in Rachel Allen’s ‘Bake‘ book and made a couple of tweaks.

To make it you’ll need…

225g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 pinch salt

75g ground almonds

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 generous tbsp or 50g runny honey

250ml natural yogurt

150ml sunflower oil

Grated zest of 1 lime

100g pistachios, roughly chopped

For the syrup

150ml water

100g caster sugar

Juice of 1 lime

1-2 tsp rose water (this depends on your taste and the strength of your rosewater. I use Star Kay White Rose Extract, which you can find in Lakeland. It really packs a punch and you’ll only need a small amount i.e. 1-2tsp. Whereas this Natural Essence of Rosewater from The English Provender is a lot weaker so you may want to add more.)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and grease and line a 20cm cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and stir in the ground almonds and caster sugar.

Mix the eggs, honey, yogurt, sunflower oil and lime zest together in another bowl.

Make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet ingredients. Use a whisk to bring them together until they’re just combined. Finally stir in the chopped pistachios before pouring the mixture into the tin you prepared earlier.

Pop it in the oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

You need to leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes, which gives you plenty of time to make your lime and rosewater syrup for drizzling.

Simply boil the water and sugar in a small saucepan for about 5 minutes until it has reduced by half. Then add the lime juice and leave to boil for another 2 minutes. Take it off the heat and leave it to cool before adding your rosewater. Take heed of my notes above regarding the strength of your rosewater…add a little, then have a slurp, if you want it stronger then add a little more to suit your own taste. If you’re too heavy handed with the rosewater at this stage your cake might end up tasting like a bar of soap…be warned!

Use a skewer to make holes all over the top of the warm cake. Spoon over the syrup making sure every bit of it sees some of the syrupy action.

I finished the cake off by scattering a few more pistachios on top and dusting it with icing sugar just before serving.

We ate it on its own but I think it’d be delicious with a dollop of natural yoghurt or creme fraiche on the side (festival optional).


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Rhubarb and custard cake…

Rhubarb season has been very fruitful for me this year (apologies for such early pun usage). I’m lucky enough to know a lot of people who have been growing their own and I even discovered a little crop of my very own in the garden! I often make a delicious sticky rhubarb and ginger cake, which is a complete winner but I stumbled across this recipe on the BBC Good Food website for a rhubarb and custard cake and couldn’t resist having a go, with a couple of Afternoon Tease twists. Now is no time for modesty, I am happy to report that it turned out to be the most delicious cake, and fickle as I am, has overtaken all others as my current favourite! Behold my rhubarb and custard cake made with locally grown rhubarb and homemade custard…

Rhubarb and custard cake

Now, I can tell, you’re going to scroll down, see the length of the recipe and decide it’s far too much hard work, panic not! There are basically 3 main sections to prepare…rhubarb, custard and cake but they are all pretty simple and I guarantee you, it’s totally worth it. Although this may not be the quickest bake, it’s a great cake for a lazy afternoon’s baking! So without further ado…

For the rhubarb you need…

400g rhubarb

50g caster sugar

For the custard you need…

1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract

275ml double cream

3 egg yolks

1 tsp cornflour

25g caster sugar

For the cake you need…

250g butter, softened,

150g custard (either use my recipe for homemade custard or if you’d rather, you can use a shop bought variety such as Ambrosia)

250g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g caster sugar

icing sugar , for dusting

So, to start, you need to prepare the rhubarb element of the cake by heating the oven to 180 degrees (fan). Rinse the rhubarb and cut it into finger sized pieces. Lay them in a shallow oven proof dish. It needs to be big enough for the rhubarb to lie out in one single layer or you will have an issue with some pieces cooking faster than others (mine was a little small in hindsight, I learnt the hard way). Sprinkle over the 50g caster sugar and shake the dish until all of the rhubarb is coated…

Rhubarb ready for roasting

Cover with foil and pop in the oven to roast. After 15 minutes remove the dish from the oven, have a peek and a little shake and pop it back in for another 5 minutes. You’re aiming for the rhubarb to be tender (but not a mushy pulp) and the juices to be syrupy. If it’s not quite there yet, just put it back in the oven and check every 5 minutes until you’re happy that the rhubarb is cooked. Then set it aside to cool.

For the custard…

You can use shop bought custard (Ambrosia for example) but I swear by Delia’s custard, which Miss Igs and I christened ‘crack custard’ due to its addictive qualities, after making it for one of our Plate Lickers Supper Clubs 🙂

Photograph by @photolotte for Cambridge Edition

Photograph by @photolotte for Cambridge Edition

If you are splashing out and using a vanilla pod, start by splitting it lengthways down the middle and scraping out the seeds. Then place the pod and the seeds (or vanilla extract) in a small saucepan, with the cream. Heat gently until it’s just below simmering point.

Whilst the cream is heating, you can whisk the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar together in a bowl.

Once your cream is ready, remove the vanilla pod (if using) and gradually add the cream to your egg yolk mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly. When all of the cream has been added and it’s well mixed, pour the whole lot back into the saucepan and return to the hob over a gentle heat. You need to stir it constantly to make sure none of it gets stuck to the bottom of the pan. You can use a rubber spatula or a whisk at this stage. It will start to thicken gradually, if it begins to look a little lumpy, don’t panic! just get whisking and it will soon become thick and smooth. Delia also advises…

‘If you do overheat it and it looks grainy, don’t worry, just transfer it to a jug or bowl and continue to whisk until it becomes smooth again.’

When you’re happy with the consistency of your custard (it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon without running straight off), pour it into a bowl and cover the surface with clingfilm so that it doesn’t form a skin. Now try not to eat too much of it before leaving it to cool for later!

The good news is that this recipes makes nearly double the quantity of custard you need for the cake! So once you’ve measured out 150g of your custard…you can do whatever you wish with the leftovers! I recommend grabbing a spoon and eating it straight from the bowl 🙂

Once the rhubarb and custard have cooled, you are ready for the cake making. This may all feel a bit long winded but bear with it…I promise that it’s worth every single second of prep!

So, for the cake…

Grease and line a 20cm (or 23cm) loose-bottomed or springform cake tin and heat the oven to 160 degrees (fan).

Save 3 tbsp of the 150g custard in a separate bowl for later. Put the rest of the custard in a large bowl with the butter, flour, baking powder, eggs, vanilla and sugar and beat until creamy and smooth.

Now for the assembly. Spoon 1/3 of the cake mix into the tin, add 1/3 of the rhubarb, then dot with another 1/3 of the cake mix and spread it out as well as you can. Top with another 1/3 of the rhubarb, then spoon over the remaining cake mix, don’t worry about being too neat about it. Scatter the rest of the rhubarb over the batter, then drip the reserved custard on top…

Rhubarb and custard cake ready for the oven

The original recipe said to bake it for 40 mins until risen and golden, then to cover the tin with foil and bake it for 15-20 mins more. Mine took quite a bit longer than this and after testing it by inserting a skewer into the middle (when it’s ready the skewer will come out clean) I actually cooked it for a further 30 minutes (so 1hour 30mins in total). After the intial hour of cooking, you need to use your judgement…just remember, if the skewer doesn’t come out clean, it isn’t ready, so just pop it back in for  5 minutes or so at a time and then check again. Bear in mind that the cooking time also varies depending on the size of the tin you use…a 20cm tin will need slightly longer than a 23cm tin. However, you can be safe in the knowledge that when it is ready it’s going to look and smell fantastic…


Leave the cake to cool in the tin and when completely cool, sprinkle liberally with icing sugar and serve…

Rhubarb and custard cake


If you can resist polishing it off straight away, this cake keeps well for a couple of days and would be delicious served with leftover custard (if you have any).

Rhubarb and custard cake

A slice of rhubarb and custard cake


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Tea tasting with Kandula and a recipe for leek and smoked Camembert filo tarts…

After a strenuously indulgent weekend as part of my annual family ‘Easter Eat Fest’, I thought it was the perfect time to finish off a well overdue blog post about an event I did as part of the EAT Cambridge festival at the beginning of March. I was invited by Liz from local boutique B&B, Duke House and local tea company, Kandula to come up with an afternoon tea menu to complement 5 teas from their range for a tasting event for a lucky few guests at Duke House. It was a great chance for me to experiment with new dishes and cakes and to (hopefully) come up with the perfect match for the teas that had been chosen. I spoke at length with the Gail and Jane from Kandula, and they advised me of the flavours that would bring the best out in their teas. The final menu looked like this…

Kandula Tea and Afternoon Tease Menu

With the Ebony Ceylon I matched homemade wholemeal and white soda bread scones topped with delicate cream cheese and cucumber and smoked salmon, creme fraiche and dill. It’s a delicate tea that needed a delicate but savoury food to set it off perfectly…

Homemade soda bread scones

The guests really got into the event and spent time (in between mouthfuls) discussing how successful they felt each food and tea combination was…

Tea tasting guests

Next up we matched the English Breakfast with a new invention of mine…leek and smoked Camembert filo tarts. I was told that the English Breakfast tea was robust enough for a more strongly flavoured savoury dish and had recently been introduced to the existence of smoked Camembert so decided this was the perfect chance to put it into action. The combination of a light filo tart, leek, a creamy filling and melted, lightly smoked Camembert was an absolute winner! (see below for the recipe)…

Leek and smoked Camembert filo tarts

Kandula English Breakfast Tea

Kandula’s signature tea is their Pink Ceylon, a unique green tea with a beautiful pink colour, which won a gold star in the Great taste Awards 2011. It’s a wondefully delicate tea, perfect with Portuguese style custard tarts…

Portuguese style custard tarts

Custard tart matched with Kandula's Pink Ceylon

The next tea, was definitely my favourite, the Earl Grey, which is complemented by anything fruity or citrussy. I had opted for my lemon drizzle cakes topped with lemon curd cream and blueberries…

Lemon drizzle cupcakes with lemon curd cream and blueberries

Lemon drizzle cupcake with lemon curd cream and blueberries

and finally we matched the spicy Ebony Chai with my ginger chocolate shortbread topped with dark chocolate ganache and cristallized ginger…

Ginger and chocolate shortbread with dark chocolate ganache

It was a real treat for me to work on this event and in such a lovely location. I hope to do more in the future.

Now, without further ado, here’s the recipe for my delicious leek and smoked Camembert filo tarts…

You will need…

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 leeks, finely sliced (I always make sure I wash them well in a colander once sliced in case there is any dirt or grit trapped between the layers. Be sure to pat them dry with some kitchen towel though or your tarts will be soggy)

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only

3 free range medium eggs

200ml double cream

100ml milk

1 packet ready made filo pastry

60g butter, melted

1 smoked Camembert* (you won’t need all of this but it’s so delicious I’m sure there are many other ways you can find to enjoy it! 🙂

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

This recipe will make 12 small tarts using a 12 hole muffin tin but it can also be used to make 1 large tart using a 20cm (8inch) pie tin.

To make the filling…

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the leeks over a medium heat for 10 minutes until soft (but not too brown). Then add the garlic and thyme and cook for a few more minutes before removing from the heat and setting aside for later.

Mix together the eggs, cream and milk in a jug and season with salt and pepper.

Now to prepare the filo cases for the filling…

Brush each hole of the muffin tin with a thin coating of melted butter.

Take the filo pastry out of it’s wrapping and cut it into squares large enough to fit into the hole of a muffin tin and come right up the sides. Once you have a stack of small squares of pastry, take 1, brush it with melted butter and lay another square on top of it at a 45 degree angle. Repeat this again with another sheet and another until you have 4 squares lying on top of each other but slightly offset to create a spiky edge. Gently take the stack of pastry and push it into a hole of the muffin tin, being careful to push it into the edges without  ripping it. Do this until you have filled all 12 holes.

Spoon some of the leek mixture into the bottom of each pastry case and then divide the liquid mixture between the tarts. Finally place a small square of smoked Camembert on top of each one and pop them in the oven for 25-30 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure the pastry doesn’t burn.

When they are done the pastry should be golden brown and the egg mixture set. Remove them from the oven. These can be enjoyed straight away or can be left to cool for a few minutes before removing them from the tin and leaving them to cool completely on a wire rack so they can be eaten cold…the perfect picnic food! I decided to warm mine through slightly just before serving.

*A quick note on smoked Camembert…if you’re Cambridge based, I know you can get smoked Camembert from River Farm Smokery, it’s also stocked in The Larder at Burwash Manor. If you are unable to find smoked, them normal Camembert would be delicious too or perhaps some Dolcelatte or Gorgonzola if you like a cheese that packs a punch!

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Ma Barnard’s lemon drizzle loaf…

Last year my great friends Nic & Will got married (blog here) and as is the wont of mothers all over the world, Nic’s Mum turned up at the venue laden with a plethora of goodies that she’d been baking and freezing for months in preparation. It was safe to say that no one would be going hungry and I that I would be one very happy camper with that much cake around! 🙂 One of these home baked treats was an amazing tangy lemon drizzle loaf. I just couldn’t get enough of it and think I even managed a slice for breakfast. She was kind enough to share the recipe with me and now, to me, it will forever be called Ma Barnard’s lemon drizzle loaf…

Ma Barnard's Lemon drizzle loaf

It appears that I’m a bit of a butter purist and was a bit unsure about using marg, but having tasted the cake myself I knew that it worked very well in this recipe. On doing a little butter vs margerine research on t’internet I discovered this statement from Delia, the baking goddess herself…

Fats Flavour-wise it is said you can’t beat butter in baking. And certainly for purists that’s probably true – I see one leading chain store proudly advertises ‘made with all butter’ on its wrappings! My own opinion is that margarine – now it has improved so much in flavour – is very good for baking, and with the advent of soft margarine and the all-in-one method of making sponges I actually hardly ever use butter for baking. Very occasionally I use lard. Fats should usually be at room temperature for cake-making. Allow 1 hour to soften butter, block margarine and lard. Soft or whipped margarine can be used straight from the fridge (although in practice I usually allow half an hour at room temperature), but it is vital that any margarine that is high in polyunsaturated fats is always used straight from the fridge.

So with Delia’s words to reassure you, just give it a try and see what you think. But now over to the other baking goddess and in the words of Heather Barnard herself…

It is extremely easy to make, the most difficult part being grating the lemon! When the recipe says ‘put in a cold oven’ it means it! A warm oven will spoil it.

To make Ma Barnard’s lemon drizzle loaf you will need…

170g (6oz) Self Raising Flour

114g (4oz) Soft margarine

170g (6oz) Castor sugar

2 Eggs

4 tbsp Milk

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Topping: 114g (4oz) Icing sugar. Mixed well with the juice of the lemon


Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Put the mixture into a 2 lb loaf tin and place in a COLD oven on middle shelf. (Heather uses a liner for the tin, as she says it looks better and it allows the lemon topping to soak in more. I didn’t have a loaf tin liner so I greased and lined my with greaseproof paper).

Switch the oven on at 190 degrees (10 degrees less for a fan oven) and cook for approx. 50 mins. Test the loaf by inserting a skewer into the middle, if it comes out clean, it’s ready.

When you’re happy that it’s cooked to perfection, remove it from the oven and prick the top all over with a skewer.

Pour the topping slowly all over the cake, making sure that it goes down all the cracks and holes, and leave in the tin until cold. This not only acts as the delicious gooey ‘drizzle’ element of the cake but also leaves a gorgeous crunchy layer on top!…

Ma Barnard's Lemon drizzle loaf

Heather also told me that you can vary the recipe by using an orange or limes, but lemon is a firm fave in her house. She suggests making two at a time as they keep for up to a week and will freeze well. The ones at the wedding had previously been frozen and were delicious! I have been making this cake a lot recently and it works like a dream every single time!

Thank you Heather (AKA Ma Barnard)!

Lemon drizzle loaf

Slice of lemon drizzle loaf


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Homemade marzipan treats…

There’s just about time for another of my last-minute-Larry Christmas present ideas…it’s not too late to whip up a batch of marzipan treats!


My Mum is a huge marzipan fan but she’s also very particular about recipes that use raw egg. Unfortunately, marzipan is one such recipe, which gave me a bit of a challenge! After some internet trawling, I stumbled upon this little recipe from good old Delia. Although it still uses eggs, you have to spend a very achy arm inducing 12 minutes whisking them with sugar in a bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmering water, which in my mind, equates to cooking the egg and therefore reduces any risk…well that’s what I’ll be telling my Mum :)…


The recipe worked really well, but I was a little bit impatient when it came to cooling the egg & sugar mixture and decided to mix the ground almonds in when it was still warm. The mixture was pretty sticky so I wrapped it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for an hour or so until it was less sticky and ready to mould into shapes.

Now comes the fun part, the world is your lobster and you can freestyle your marzipan into any shape you like!

But if you need a bit of inspiration, I made small cylinders, which I inserted in the middle of pitted medjool dates. I also made discs, dipped some in melted dark chocolate and stuck dried cranberries and pistachios on top of the others before drizzling them with left over melted chocolate…


It ended up being a lot of fun and I think they look pretty darn good, even if I do say so myself. 🙂




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Pineapple chutney: for that cheese on toast lover in your life…

There’s a recurring theme to my blog posts at this time of year…I’m all about helping last minute Larrys like me, who haven’t yet bought presents for their loved ones! If that’s you, please, please, please don’t be tempted to buy a last minute, ill thought out gift from a major department store…a homemade present might take a little extra effort but they’ll mean so much more! Ok, sorry, rant over! 🙂

If you need some last minute inspiration, last year I made (and blogged) Christmas Granola, red onion chutney and balsamic pickled shallots or for festive sweet treats you can’t go wrong with these chocolate coconut macaroons.

But today’s Christmas gift for the tardy is this amazingly addictive pineapple chutney…


The perfect accompaniment to cheese on toast or delicious served on chunks of cheese, as we did at our ‘Childhood Memories’ themed Plate Lickers Supper Club


So without further ado, to make 3 x 330ml jars (normal jam jar size) you will need…

2 tbsp sunflower oil

3 red onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

1 tbsp black onion seeds

1 tsp turmeric

2 pineapples, peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks 

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

thumb-sized piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

250g soft light brown sugar

175ml cider vinegar

Start by chopping and getting all of your ingredients ready, this is the most time consuming part, but it’ll be worth it believe me!…


I recommend chopping the pineapple into fairly small cubes (approx 0.5cm-1cm square) as it makes the chutney easier to put in sandwiches etc…


Now, Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan. Tip in the onions and spices and cook for 5 mins until fragrant…


Add the rest of the ingredients plus 1 tsp salt…


Simmer for about 1 hr until dark golden and thick. Don’t worry if after an hour, your chutney isn’t dark golden & thick, just keep it bubbling until you’re happy with it and it’s the right consistency for you…


Pour into sterilised jars and put the lids on. 

To sterilise jars all you need to do is pop them on a hot wash in the dishwasher (if you’re lucky enough to have one) or…wash them by hand in hot soapy water, rinse them well and just pop them in your oven at 160 degrees (fan) for 10 minutes just before your chutney is ready. The perk of sterilising your jars is that it means that once sealed with the lid, your chutney will keep for up to a year!…however, once you’ve discovered how good it is with cheese on toast there’s NO way it’ll last that long! 🙂 


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Festive chocolate coconut macaroons…

I’m sure at this time of year, Google is swamped with people looking for festive baking ideas or inspiration for handmade gift to ply their loved ones with. I’m happy to admit that I am one of those people…eagerly looking for THE recipe that’ll make the perfect present!

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, look no further, I thought I’d share one such recipe with you…these chocolate coconut macaroons are easy to make, delicious and if you fancy getting creative, you can even follow my lead and make them look like little Christmas puds :)…


To make about 24 chocolate coconut macaroons all you need is…

120g dark chocolate, chopped (I used 70%)

3 egg whites

25g cocoa powder

150g granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

220g dessicated coconut

200g white chocolate for decorating (optional)

Some green and red writing icing for your holly leaves and berries (optional)

In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the dark chocolate (make sure the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl). Once it’s melted set it to one side to cool a bit.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the cocoa powder, sugar, salt and vanilla extract and whisk in until combined. Stir in the dessicated coconut and melted chocolate, making sure that every little bit of coconut has a chocolatey coating. When you’re happy that there are no escapees, cover the bowl and pop it in the fridge to cool for about an hour until it’s firm.

Now, preheat your oven to 165 degrees and line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Remove your coconut mixture from the fridge and taking a heaped teaspoon at a time, roll into balls between your hands. Lay each ball on the prepared tray a couple of inches apart so that they’ve got a bit of room to spread in the oven.

Once you’ve used all of the mixture, put them in the oven and bake for 13-15 minutes or until the macaroons are shiny and just set. Remove them from the oven and leave them to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes. When they’re cool enough to handle you can transfer them gently to a wire rack to cool completely. At which point you can either tuck in or…get decorating!

To make your macaroons look like little Christmas puds you will need to use the same method of melting chocolate that you used earlier, but this time with the white chocolate. Once it’s melted  you need to work quite fast and spoon a little onto the top of each macaroon before it hardens. Leave the white chocolate to set and then you can get creative with the writing icing to create your holly leaves and berries.

The icing needs a while to set before you can package them up…this is the most dangerous part of the whole process…a true test of your self restraint…can you resist eating them all before they make it to their intended recipient? 😉




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Halloween baking: mini spiced pumpkin & chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing…

Now, if I’m honest I’m not a big fan of Halloween. Being a complete scaredy cat isn’t particularly conducive to any sort of Halloween activity. However, I love an excuse for some good old themed baking and made it my mission to use the pumpkins that arrived recently in my veg box to do just that!…

I find that pumpkins are a lot less tasty than their butternut squash brethren and need a lot of spice/ cream/ sugar adding to make them taste of anything at all, which set me another challenge, to find a recipe that does justice to the humble pumpkin.

After a bit of online trawling, I found a couple of tasty sounding recipes which called for pumpkin puree. So, I set about making my pumpkins into puree…

To do this you need to halve your pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits and throw them away. Place the empty pumpkin halves face down on a baking tray…

Bake it at 180 degrees for 45 mins to 1 hour until soft (you can test whether they’re ready by inserting a knife into the skin, it should slide in with no resistance)…

Let them cool a bit before scooping the flesh into a bowl…

You need just 1 cup’s worth for this recipe but I recommend measuring the remaining pumpkin puree into cup portions and popping it in bags or containers in the freezer for next time you fancy a bit of baking.

Now the first time I made this recipe I followed advice on the ‘how to cook good food’ blog and used dark brown sugar and added a tablespoon of rum along with chocolate chips and the results were divine…a deliciously moist loaf cake with a subtle rum kick…what’s not to like!

In my mission to theme it up even more I decided to make the recipe into cupcakes.

To make 1 loaf cake or 12-14 cupcakes you’ll need…

1 cup (240ml) pumpkin puree

120ml sunflower oil

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

200g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

200g dark brown sugar

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin or line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cases in preparation.

Mix the cooled pumpkin puree, oil, eggs, water and spices together. I used an electric mixer but it would definitely be easy enough to do by hand.

Sift in the flour, salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda and mix until it’s all combined but be careful not to over mix. Finally add the chocolate chips (and 1 tbsp rum if you’re feeling frivolous :).

Pour the cake mixture into the loaf tin or fill each cupcake cake until two thirds full and pop in the oven.

The loaf will take 50 minutes to 1 hour and the cupcakes will only take about 30 minutes. You can check whether they’re ready by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake, if it comes out clean it’s ready. If not, pop it back in for a few minutes before checking again.

When your cake(s) are ready leave them to cool on a wire rack…

I used orange cupcake cases and decided I was going to turn my cupcakes into mini pumpkins by topping them with an orange coloured cream cheese icing…

To make the cream cheese icing you need…

450g icing sugar, sifted

75g butter, softened

200g cream cheese

Food colouring

Beat all of the icing ingredients together well and add as much or as little colour as you wish to get your desired effect. Then transfer the icing into an icing bag (I use disposable wonders, which are available in all good supermarkets) and using a large star shaped icing nozzle, swirl the icing onto the top of your cupcake. I finished my pumpkins off with a stalk made out of a chunk of dark chocolate.

And there you have them, the cutest little spiced pumpkin and chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing…

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