North Northamptonshire based food blogger who is obsessed with good food and proper cooking. I'm part of the Midlands Blogging team for the BBC Good Food Shows. This is where I share my own recipes and carry out recipe development and product reviews for brands, including food and wines. Please contact me using the link below.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Baked Cheesecake

10 Digestive biscuits, crushed
65g Unsalted butter, melted
500g Fromage frais
500g Philadelphia cheese
4 Eggs
1 Lemon, zested & juiced
25g Plain flour
100g Caster sugar
75g Sultanas 

1. Preheat your oven to 170°C.
2. Grease & line the base of a round 23cm/9" loose bottomed tin.
3. Mix the biscuits & butter together and press firmly into the bottom of your tin.
4. Place in the fridge to cool while you prepare the filling.
5. Whisk together the Fromage frais, Philadelphia, eggs, lemon zest and juice, flour & sugar until fully combined and smooth.
6. Stir in the sultanas to evenly distribute.
7. Remove the tin from the fridge and pour your filling in to it.  Smooth the top.
8. Place in your oven for 50-55 minutes until you can see the edges just starting to brown and there is still the slightest wobble in the centre.
9. Switch off the oven, leaving the cheesecake inside.
10. Leave the door slightly open and leave the cheesecake in there to cool completely.
11. Remove the cold cheesecake from the oven and transfer it to a serving plate.

You can serve this on its own or with puréed apricots or cherries poured over the top.

If you prefer a chocolate version of this, then omit the lemon juice, zest and sultanas. Replace them with 2tbs of cocoa combined with 2tbs water.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Chocolate Cake

Everyone loves chocolate cake, don't they? This is rich and indulgent without being overpowering & claggy on the mouth;  real treat!

225g Stork margarine
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
5ml vanilla extract
200g self raising flour
2.5ml baking powder
2.5ml bi-carbonate of soda
30g cocoa
30ml milk
100g dark chocolate
200g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
250ml double cream
Chocolate fingers

Preheat your oven to 180°C.
Grease & line 2 x 20cm/8" round tins

1. Cream the margarine & sugar until light & fluffy.
2. Add beaten eggs & vanilla gradually. (Add 1tbs of your measured flour if its's starting to curdle).
3. Add flour, baking powder, bi-carbonate of soda, cocoa & milk. Mix thoroughly.
4. Add melted chocolate & mix well.
5. Divide equally between the two greased & lined 20cm/8" round pans.
6. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 mins until a skewer comes out clean.
7. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes.
8. Turn onto a wire cooling rack until cold.
9. Finely chop the dark & milk chocolate.
10. Add to a saucepan with the cream.
11. Heat gently until melted & smooth.
12. Transfer to a cold bowl & leave to chill until firm.
13. Sandwich the cakes with 1/3 ganache.
14. Spread the remaining 2/3 around the edges & over the top of the cake.
15. Decorate with chocolate fingers vertically around the outside & Maltesers in concentric circles around the top.
16. Say goodbye to the diet and enjoy a slice (or two!)

Monday, 16 September 2013

Book review - No Waste Meal Planner, Becky Thorn

I met Becky a couple of years back when I first tasted some butter tablet that she made for an event held at Fortnum & Mason. That butter tablet brought back memories of being a child when my mum used to make it. We got chatting and she very kindly sent me the recipe and a surprise box of some of my own to enjoy.

We've met again a couple of times since and often chat on Twitter.  I was fortunate enough to be allowed to receive a PDF copy of her book 'The No-Waste Meal Planner'.  I enjoyed looking through it so much, I treated myself to a hard copy in June, but have only just got round to writing a review of it (one can never have too many recipe books, right?)

Through the book, Becky guides you through her 'meal chains'. From starting with a simple roast chicken, a few ingredients and several storecupboard staples. she will teach you how to turn the leftover chicken carcass into a stock to make a chicken risotto. Using the cold leftover risotto and adding mozzarella cheese and a sauce she helps you to create an Aracini with tomato sauce, before showing you how to use some of the leftover sauce and mozzarella to make yourself a pizza.

The book contains 20 'food chains' creating a total of 83 dishes. Now that's what I call getting the most from your food budget! She will also teach you what a storecupboard of essentials should contain to enable you to turn any dish into an exciting, tasty & nutritious meal.

Well done on a fantastic book, Becky! Looking forward to receiving your 'School Dinners' reprinted one (its in my Amazon shopping basket!) I can't wait to see if my Junior School dinner memories are contained in there so that I can create them for my own children.

You can buy your own copy of Becky's book from her website

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Cake and Bake Show 2013

I had a 'grand day out' with some lovely friends at the Cake and Bake Show in Earls Court yesterday (Saturday). So many talented bakers displaying and kindly sharing their culinary and decorative skills to the visitors.  This cake has to be one of my favourites as its so pretty & delicate.

My 12 year old daughter came along with us too this year.  She's becoming a keen & competent baker herself and had made some cookies on Friday night to bring along for us all on the train journey down.

It was a cool & drizzly day in London which was contrasted by the heat & humidity inside Earls Court Exhibition Hall itself. There were people as far as the eye could see; obviously this is a very popular show!

Amongst the talents to be spotted there were Eric Lanlard, Dan Lepard, Simon Rimmer, Richard Bertinet, Rosemary Shrager, Mich Turner, Peter Sidwell, John Whaite and James Morton to name but a few! 

My daughter did make me giggle when she told me that Rosemary Shrager was waiting in the queue for the ladies loo as we came out. Obviously we all have the same basic needs!

Walking round the stands of exhibitors there were some of the finest names in the industry; Billingtons Sugar (their molasses sugar tastes amazing so I just had to buy some to bake with myself), Squires Kitchen, Neff, Allinsons Flour, Renshaw, Lakeland, Nielsen-Massey, Betty Crocker, Bonne Maman and Sainsbury's amongst others.  Not to mention the smaller producers who also contribute to our world of baking.

There were also the retailers who were more than happy to talk to you about their products and ranges on offer and demonstrate their use.  Some relatively new products into the market include one of my favourites - Little Pod's vanilla paste in a tube (great idea to reduce waste) as well as their coffee & chocolate extracts from which they produced some delicious examples of foods to taste.

From sweets & fudge, through to cakes & breads and chocolates galore. We had a wonderfully tasty flatbread for lunch which I can highly recommend.

I have to say it was a lovely, if not tiring day out and I can't wait until next year!

To finish my story and to share a most unfortunate pair of events....

Starting the day on the train didn't go as planned as one of my recently done fillings fell out, which meant I had to eat on the left side of my mouth all day. That wasn't too bad until we topped off our day to a visit to Wagamama's restaurant in Covent Garden for dinner, which resulted in me breaking a tooth on the left side of my mouth on the very first mouthful of my starter! I'd had squid before and didn't like it, however on the recommendation of our waitress who proudly told us that they served the 'best squid in London' I gave it a try.

Although it was very tasty, that's a decision I've now come to regret!  For my main course I'd ordered the Chicken Ramen.  Luckily, as the noodles were soft, I was able to eat them in the front of my mouth only and drink the soup base, so I managed to get something to eat. My daughter thought it was her lucky day though, as she got to eat all my chicken.

I'm looking forward to having my teeth sorted out and returning to Wagamama's for a meal that I can enjoy (and chew) properly.

As I type I'm sitting in my dentist practice waiting to be seen as an emergency patient.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Flavoured sugars

You can flavour caster sugar to use in cakes, baking, biscuits or desserts. It's really simple to do, so I want to share with you some easy flavours to make.

Take a clean Kilner jar.
Fill it 3/4 full of caster sugar.

Vertically slice 4 vanilla pods, leaving the vanilla seeds inside.
Add these to the jar, top up with caster sugar, seal the lid and shake well.
Shake every few days and leave to infuse for a couple of weeks.
Use as needed and top back up with sugar, shake as before.
You will find that the sugar sticks together to start with as it draws the moisture out of the vanilla pods. Keep shaking and be patient with it!

Using a potato peeler, peel the zest from an orange, place it onto a baking tray in an oven at 100C for an hour until dry.
Allow to cool.
Add the orange peel and 8-10 whole cloves to the sugar.
Top up, seal and shake well.
Shake every few days and leave to infuse for a couple of weeks.
Use as needed and top back up with sugar, shake as before. Make sure to pick out the cloves from your baking.

Pick fresh, clean lavender flowers. Ensure that you haven't used any pesticides nearby.
Shake off any insects etc.
Place somewhere warm until dry.
Remove the flowers from the stalks and add these to the jar, top up with caster sugar, seal the lid and shake well.
Shake every few days and leave to infuse for a couple of weeks before using.
Sieve to use as needed, returning the flowers to the jar and top back up with sugar, shake as before.
You want the ratio to be about 98% sugar to 2% lavender.

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