There are many cakes that I will probably, through lack of knowledge of their existence, never bake.  But a brownie is not one of them.  Although to be fair, it has only been in the last couple of years that I have even considered making them at home and not just buying them to eat when meeting friends at the coffee shop.

Brownies have recently become synonymous with morning coffee, perhaps in part due to their American origins, although I have a sneaking suspicion that it is more likely because they compliment a hot drink wonderfully, so they, like so many other cakes, have naturally veered towards the morning or afternoon ‘nibble’ slot.   Although according to brownies are actually a bar cookie as opposed to a cake because,

“…brownies are finger food, like cookies, and cake is eaten with a fork”

I don’t know about you, but I can eat cake very nicely without a fork, thank-you. Moreover, I always presumed the classification process was more about how the item was baked and it’s consistency.  But who am I to argue?  Although there is another issue, on our little island, regarding whether it should be taxed or not, based on the classification of whether the food is a biscuit or cake.  And for those of you who are the slightest bit interested, may I guide you to the ‘Jaffa Cake Fiasco’ for more, vitally important and gripping details.   *Ahem*

Meanwhile, the brownie recipe I follow is a gloriously simple one, promoted by the one and only Nigella Lawson, who, for any of you that didn’t see it, read out with wonderful precision, the Eurovision results for our little island this year.  A show dedicated to all things gloriously ironic and ever so slightly camp.  Perfect for our sense of humour.

And now let me shimmy, seamlessly, to the ingredients.  You will need 375g butter, 375g good dark chocolate.  Melt together, leave to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, mix together 225g plain flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 300g chopped nuts (usually walnuts, but yesterday I did a mixture of walnuts, pecans and almonds simply because I didn’t have enough walnuts) into a bowl.   Then add six large eggs, 500g castor sugar and 1 tablespoonful of vanilla extract into another bowl and whisk together.

When the melted chocolate mix has cooled slightly, add the whisked egg mixture and then the flour nut combo.  Pour into a greased and lined rectangular dish, depending on the size of brownie you would like.

Cook at gas mark 4 for around 25 minutes.  As soon as the mixture stops wobbling, and the top has cracked and turned a lighter brown, whip them out of the oven and leave to cool before cutting.

Make a coffee (or tea) and sit down, brownie in one hand, drink in the other, for five minutes – or 30 seconds in my case –  of absolute pleasure.



Tapenade #2

I am not one of those people who naturally selects olives as a nibble.  It could be because I’ve not tasted many quality olives, or that I have not had them in the right setting, although I do love them in Spaghetti alla Puttanesca – spaghetti as if made by a whore – which is absolutely delicious and a complete taste sensation.  But a slight digression from my point.

Occasionally, however, olives do find their way into our kitchen and are often left languishing in the ‘I’m going to freeze you if it’s the last thing I do’ fridge.  Which is where little things like tapenade come in very handy.

For those of you who may not be completely au fait with the tapenade, it’s a posh dip which goes very nicely with crisp breads, sticks or slithers of something crispy, and a lovely glass of something refreshing.  Yes, we have entered early evening aperitif territory.

Now as you will see from the picture, my tapenade has a slight greenish hue to it which I can explain immediately.  In the perfect tapenade recipe, you would use just black olives, but the ones we have in our fridge are combination olives – by that I mean a tub of black and green – so although I put all the black ones in first, I have added some green, just for numbers.  But don’t be put off by the colour, if you enjoy the tang of a green olive, you will enjoy them in this tapenade.

Of course if you cannot bear the thought of a green olive passing your lips then the best olives, apparently, are kalamata or nicoise.  So now you know.

You don’t need to make heaps of the stuff as, unlike other dippy bits, tapenade is a ‘less is more’ kinda food.  A complimentary twinkle rather than a main star.

So, onto business.  You will need: 200g black olives, 3 tablespoons capers *, 2 anchovies, I fat clove garlic, 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, juice of half a lemon, 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

Put everything barring the oil, into the food processor and whizz up.  Add the olive oil through the funnel whilst the processor is still on.

It is worth pointing out here that things like capers and anchovies can often be packed in a whole heap of salt.  If so, give them a wash before adding them, otherwise your tapenade will be very salty.  Although some may say this is a good thing, and a fine reason for another G & T, salt does take away from the subtleties of the other flavours.

As with all dips, indeed all food, quality controlling as you go is essential.  You may need to add a little more lemon, or indeed a shake of pepper, it is entirely up to you.  However you decide to indulge, there is one thing that never fails to hit the right spot, and that is the deep end of week feeling, drink in hand, nibble to hand and the last rays of sunshine.


*It is at this point that I realised I hadn’t actually put the capers in my tapenade so stopped writing, got out the food processor, quickly added them in to the mixture, whizzed up, washed up and sat back down to continue writing.  That’s the goddess lifestyle for you…

Key Lime Pie

Key lime pie

I have a confession to make.  This is a Nigella recipe filched straight from ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’.   I haven’t altered a thing.

You see, as with everything that has a structure, be that science, language, music, etc. I believe you need to understand the fundamentals in order to play around with the concept.  That’s my excuse anyway.

The other thing is, I have never made Key Lime Pie before, although I have flicked through this book many times.  I think probably one of the things that has made me scan over this recipe and not really consider it before, was the almost nonchalant way she describes how to make it.

There is non of that oozing flamboyance here.  Unlike further along in the book, when, in the preamble to the recipe from her friend Joe Dolce regarding his Italian Cheesecake, she quotes directly from his email, ‘Eat it and weep’.  Still one of my favourite cookbook quotes of all time.

However, we had some limes that needed using up, and a tin of sweetened condensed milk which didn’t actually need eating up but was there – very similar in my book – so I decided to give it a bash.

As with many cheesecake style recipes, this one starts with the digestive biscuit (200g) and butter (50g) combo, whizzed up and squished into a 23cm lined springform tin.  Normally this would be a round one, but we have a 20cm square one which I have only used once so felt it needed an outing.

Invariably with recipes that use a biscuit base such as this, the recipe insists, or as near as damn it, that you have a food processor to ‘blitz’ the two ingredients together.  I don’t have one of those which is, perhaps, why my biscuit base, despite being bashed to billie-o, never manages to hold itself together.  It does often give me false hope though as there are always parts of it that initially look pretty good and my heart punches the air thinking that, at last, I have managed to make a cohesive biscuit base.

It’s a short lived story.  As soon as I move the blighter, it moves with me.  In all directions.

I’m thinking it may be to do with my impatience not allowing it to linger in the tin enough, not cooling it enough, not letting it be.  Next time.

Meanwhile the filling consists of 5 large egg yolks, 3 egg whites, zest of 3 limes, 150ml lime juice and a 397g tin of sweetened condensed milk.

In Nigella’s recipe blurb she talks about key limes and how it is unnecessary to use actual key limes.  She uses ordinary ones.  I’m afraid I have to hold up my hands and say I am completely lime ignorant.  I have never had a key lime so therefore wouldn’t be able to advise anyone on their importance, or not.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks then fold into the yolks (which have been beaten), lime and condensed milk mixture.  Pour on top of the biscuit base and cook on a baking tray which has been lounging in the centre of the oven, gas mark 3. Leave it there for around 25 minutes or until the filling is firm.

Pop onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

Chill well – Nigella’s advice, and who am I to argue?

*pops off to make a margarita*

Courgette Cake

Courgette Cake

Having sampled this cake a coupe of years ago, made by one of my many talented and lovely friends, the memory of how wonderful it tasted has stayed with me, although I have never, until now, managed to rustle one up.

Turns out it is the simplest thing to make, and although I am still not eating sugar so therefore won’t be able to sample my goods, it will be going to the wee boy’s Kindergarten Spring Fayre, which is happening on Saturday so hopefully will all be eaten.  Actually, there is enough mixture to make two of then which, in my book, is a result.

This is what you will need:

3 eggs, 275ml sunflower oil – I used vegetable oil as I didn’t have any sunflower oil and I figured there can’t be that much difference – 350g caster sugar, 350g courgettes grated, 165g plain flour, 165g buckwheat flour – once again, I didn’t have any so I used wholemeal plain flour – 1tsp baking powder, 2 tspns bicarbonate of soda, 1tsp cinnamon, 175g raisins – I used sultanas, see previous excuse – 150g walnuts chopped.

Now then, here’s a thing with putting nuts into a cake.  I absolutely love them but the wee boy and his friends are going through a phase of ‘being allergic’ to things, which roughly translates as not liking them, so I have left the nuts out of this recipe as it has the ‘I’m allergic to nuts’ foray written all over it.  Instead I replaced them with a handful of chia seeds, for texture.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4. Then, either grease and line the base of two 900g/2lb loaf tins or, if you’re like me, you will have purchased, for absolutely no other reason than the thought that they might come in handy one day, a packet of paper loaf tin liners.  I was beginning to think they may have to be used for something to paint onto, but now I am completely absolved from buying ‘just in case stuff’, as they fit the tins perfectly.

Put all the ingredients together and mix to make a thick batter.  Pour into the cake tins.  Bake in the pre heated over for about an hour until the loaves are firm and a skewer comes out clean.  Sadly, I couldn’t remember what time I put the cakes in as I was ‘multi-tasking’.  However, I went by the smell of the oven and actually, although when I first tested them they weren’t quite done, I left them in a little longer, turning up the heat ever so slightly, and there was no dip at all.  Which has given me a completely disproportionate belief that I know what I’m doing.

Cool the cakes a little before turning out on a wire rack.

I have left one of the cakes without anything on top but the other now has a glaze made up of lime juice and granulated sugar. Of course I am unable to tell you what that will taste like but I reckon it should compliment the cake well.  I will be able to tell though, because when you sell cake at a Fayre, people never come back for a second slice if it’s not palatable.

I’ll let you know what happens.

Kiwi Bread

Kiwi Bread

Having found myself with a plethora of kiwi fruit, I decided to give making kiwi bread a bash.

This was about a week ago.

It has taken me until today to actually get around to making said bread and I have to say, as far as taste is concerned, the jury is still out.

It’s ok, but as himself said, it tastes a little like a doner kebab.

Why is this?  You may well ask.  I have absolutely no idea.

However, it may well taste differently tomorrow when it’s had time to settle in to itself.

I’ll keep you posted…

Coffee and Walnut Cake

coffee and walnut cake

It has reached the time of year in our household that, for 10 months prior to November, always sounds very romantic.  Until it starts to get closer.  And then the reality sets in.   Not only that, every year, without fail, we are not prepared for the shock.

‘What on earth is she talking about?’  Whispered the voice at the back.

Well, for us, we are just about to hit celebration season.  And this is how it goes:

Me, him, the little ray of sunshine, the day we met, youngest brother-in-law, wedding anniversary, mini him, another brother-in-law, Christmas.

I know.  How lovely all to be born within a month of each other…

As a direct result of this birthday montage, there is also an onslaught of cake to be made to compliment said birthday celebrations, and this year, for me, it’s coffee and walnut cake.

My favourite bit of this cake, as a child, was the icing.  I enjoyed the cake out of politeness, but honestly it was really just seen as the bit to endure, to get to the bit I loved.  So much so, I used to sneak into the kitchen when I thought no-one was looking, dip my finger in the tin holding the cake, and swipe a good dollopful of icing, before quickly closing the lid.

On reflection, this technique was not the cleverest really, as when my mum next opened the tin, there would often be a large crevice where icing once was.  Like every good thief, I would completely deny any knowledge of the incident, although it was obviously one of us.

Back to the cake.

So, I mix 225g of butter and 225g of castor sugar together, although sometimes I half and half the castor sugar with soft light brown.  I then add 50g of walnuts and whizz them altogether in my trusty Kenwood.  Add 3 eggs, one by one, 3 dessertspoonfuls of espresso coffee, 225g of self raising flour and a teaspoon of baking powder.

Divide between two prepared cake tins and bake, gas mark 4, for around 25 minutes depending on your oven.  As mine is a little contrary I tend to open the oven way too early on, and spend the next 10 minutes hoping that, as I’ve turned up the heat a little, this will counterbalance the cake dip.  It’s not the most successful technique, but you can’t blame me for trying.

That is a down side to being an eternal optimist.

Once cooked, let the cakes cool on a rack for around 10 minutes before turning out and peeling the greaseproof paper off.  Once again, my over eagerness often catches me unawares and I take the cakes out of their tins way too early, so they stick to the cooling rack.  But hey, I figure it will have icing on it to cover any glitches and life is way too short to get in a tizzy about such things.

The icing is a combination of 300g icing sugar, 175 butter and a dessertspoonful or 2 of espresso coffee.

Here’s a little tip for icing sugar.  Sieve or give it a whizz round in the trusty Kenwood before adding the butter, otherwise it is an absolutely devil to get smooth.

Dollop half in between the cooled cake sponges, and half on top.  If you’re feeling particularly fancy, you could create a lovely pattern on top and sprinkle on some walnuts.

Either way, this is an absolutely delicious cake for any time of year, so cut yourself a good slab, make a cuppa, put your feet up and enjoy.




Slow Cooked Pulled Pork

pulled pork

 I know, everyone’s pulling meat these days.  So on the recommendation from one of our lovely friends, I thought I’d give it a go as I felt I couldn’t possibly miss out on this culinary zeitgeist.

Now this is the thing.  It involves placing a piece of pork in a bath of cherry coke, honey, BBQ spices and a little salt.

That’s it.

You place everything in a pot, put in the oven, and leave it for 6 – 8 hours.  Actually, when I say pot, what was recommended to me was a slow cooker, but I figured as I don’t have one of those any more because I broke the lid, I would just use a pot.

Despite my slight misgivings at cooking with cherry coke (I used the supermarket brand version) I decided that I needed to shrug off my misconceptions and venture out of my comfort zone.  So I did everything that was required and spent the rest of the day metaphorically navel gazing.

Well, to be honest, not completely, but it did feel strange having very little to do, culinary wise.

Meanwhile, we have had a strange incident involving the curtain rail in the wee boys bedroom.  Amazingly, despite both boys playing rather boisterously very close by to said curtains, when questioned, the wee boy declared that the rail, holding up his bedroom curtains, ‘just fell off’.

I understand a well known curtain manufacturer have declared a product recall on their curtain rails ‘just falling off’.  Which, obviously, explains everything.

Anyway, to compliment the pork I roasted some butternut squash, carrots, shallots, potatoes and aubergines.  When the pork had been lounging in a low heated oven for many hours, I took it out and, hey presto, the meat just fell apart.  And, as I am a lover of sauces, I created something delicious out of the meat juices, which also complimented the meat and vegetables perfectly.

Who’d have thought cooking with fizzy pop could be so successful?