Sunday, 21 November 2010

Dog biscuits

These lovely treats were taken from the book Cooking for Your Dog by Ingeborg Pils and make a lovely Christmas gift for that special pooch. They are a honey-sweetened digestive type biscuit baked in dog bone shapes, and so are just as suitable for humans (in my case children) to eat if they can't resist trying them too (mine couldn't.)

Honey Dog Biscuits


  • 150g wholemeal flour
  • 150g porridge oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 30g butter
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml milk


  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl
  • Rub in the butter
  • Add the eggs, honey and milk and knead to a soft dough
  • Roll out to about 1cm thick and cut out with a bone shaped cutter if you've got one (for the kids, the dog won't care much) or circles
  • Bake at 200 degrees C/400 degrees F/gas mark 6 for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown
  • Turn off the oven and leave the biscuits in the cooling oven to dry out
  • Serve to lucky dog or wrap up and give as presents (to other lucky dogs)

Friday, 22 October 2010

Autumn baking

It's bake off time again, or, to be precise English Mum's Great Big Autumn Bakeoff. Autumn to me is the prefect time for baking, not that I don't stop baking any other time of year but there's something about autumn, its misty mornings and berry-laden trees that sends me into the kitchen.

Bread is my number one for autumn baking. Summer is somehow time for fast things like focaccia and flat bread to wrap around salady stuff, but autumn is for soup and soup needs bread. This is a split pea and ham soup accompanied by bread rolls with honey and sesame. The sweetness of the honey and the nuttiness of the sesame seeds (which are on the inside of the rolls as well as the outside) make for the perfect accompaniment to the salty smokiness of the soup. R6 loves helping to shape them too so we get all kinds of faces, hedgehogs and plaits.

Autumn is crumble time too and who could resist the fragrant delights of an apple and blackberry crumble? I'm delighted to say that the apples are from our own trees and the blackberries were picked from around the farm. There's something wonderful about picking and then cooking your own produce and I'll never get tired of it.

It's been such an unusually bumper year for our apples that I keep making Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstalls apple and almond pudding cake too. This lovely thing - which is my official entry for English Mum's bakeoff -  was featured on River Cottage Every Day a few weeks back. Freshly baked and still warm from the over it is divine with custard but I almost love it more cold from the fridge the following morning for (a very decadent) breakfast served with a spoonful of natural yoghurt.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Chocolate courgette cake and lime courgette muffins

This is a my take on a recipe from BBC Good Food's website for chocolate courgette cake. I had a look at their recipe and decided to add a few tweaks here and there. For a start I decided wholemeal flour would be a better bet. I often use wholemeal flour in recipes which use fruit or veg as I find it mops up the extra moisture better than ordinary plain flour. If you don't like the bran bits, sieve them out. I also reduced the sugar a little, changed the oil and left out the nuts. It takes about ten minutes to mix up and about an hour to bake.

  • 350g plain wholemeal flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • half a tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g Green and Blacks cocoa powder (you can use other brands, but this is the best for this cake)
  • 175ml sunflower oil
  • 350g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 500ml (by volume, measured in a jug) grated courgettes

  • Combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb and cocoa powder in a bowl and whisk with a fork.
  • Beat the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla together and add the courgettes.
  • Mix the wet into the dry and pour into a greased and base-lined 24cm cake tin.
  • Bake at Gas mark 4/180 degrees C for 55 to 65 minutes. (Check after the first 45 mins to see how it's doing - your oven might be faster than mine.)

The original recipe tops it with a chocolate ganache which would be lovely but it's nice just sliced and served with a cup of coffee.

Lime Courgette Muffins

These are based on Flora's Famous Courgette Cake from Nigella's How to Be a Domestic Goddess. As usual I can't bear to follow a recipe to the letter and sometimes muffins are more convenient than a cake. I made these to hand around at a picnic at St Anne's Lighthouse this summer.

  • 60g sultanas
  • 250g grated courgettes, drained in a sieve
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125ml sunflower oil
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • half a tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • half a tsp baking powder

  • Mix the eggs, oil and sugar in a bowl and beat until creamy.
  • Sieve in the flour, bicarb and baking powder and beat again.
  • Add the courgettes and the sultanas.
  • Spoon into muffin cases in a muffin tin and bake at gas mark 4/180 degrees C for 15 to 20 minutes.

  • Mix icing sugar and lime juice (I use the ready squeezed stuff from a bottle that I always have in the fridge) to a thick paste.
  • As soon as the muffins are done spoon on dollops of icing while they are still hot from the oven.
  • If you have an actual lime to hand, grate over a little of the peel onto the tops of the muffins.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Muffins for breakfast

I read somewhere, which was probably Nigella, that Italians eat cakes and puddings for breakfast. That seems an excellent idea to me and you'll often find us eating up the leftover Sunday pud - apple crumble and custard or sticky toffee pudding and ice cream - for breakfast on a Monday morning. It gets the week off to a great start and it feels slightly naughty (especially the ice cream bit!)

Why not though? It can't be worse than some of the sugary breakfast cereals currently on sale. I often make muffins too. They're quick and easy to make and I usually make them to use up whatever fruit is about to go rotten in the fruit bowl before we can eat it. This is usually bananas, but can be strawberries or nectarines. I usually use wholemeal flour too as it feels more wholesome and breakfasty.

Today it was two bananas. They had passed the just-spotty-and-totally-delicious phase and were well on the way to falling-out-of-the-skin-in-a-very-bananary-way phase.

So I made muffins, but not without my orders. R6 doesn't like the brown bits that really ripe bananas leave in muffins but doesn't mind the flavour so subterfuge is the order of the day. "Make them really choclatey," I was told, so I did.

Bananachocanilla Muffins

MAKES: 12 big muffins.


(I always make muffins in ounces for some reason...)

7oz plain wholemeal flour
1 oz cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4oz dark soft brown sugar
4oz melted butter
1 large egg
4 fl oz milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
two very ripe bananas
chopped plain chocolate - about a couple of ounces, whatever is to hand.


  1. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, break up any lumps and whisk with a fork to get some air into the mix.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients together.
  3. Mush the bananas and add them with the wet ingredients and the choc chips into the dry ingredients.
  4. Stir briefly until just about mixed. Too much mixing makes them tough.
  5. Spoon into muffin cases and bake at Gas mark 5 (190 degrees C) for 10 to 15 minutes until springy on top. Eat for breakfast with a glass of milk.

If you're feeling really self-indulgent you could spread a bit of Nutella on these as you eat them but that would be VERY naughty indeed, and don't even think about putting ice cream on these too as the Diet Police will be hammering on your door...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

One pot meal: Chicken with courgettes and green olives

This is one of those handy little recipes which kills a few birds with one stone. It's all done in one pot, which I'm a big fan of (less washing up) and it's a good use for courgettes of which there is already a glut (and they've only just got started.) It's also fairly low fat and children like it.

I bought a wide cast iron pan with a lid from Aldi and it is such a lovely thing to cook meals in. (The posh, the rich and those with generous friends who bought them one for a wedding present will have similar pans made by Le Creuset.)


1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
glug of olive oil
Four or five courgettes
1 pack of chicken thighs (or chicken breasts) - about 250g to 300g cubed chicken
1 cup (about 200g) rice
Pinch of saffron
1/3 cup sherry
1 and 2/3 cup water or chicken stock
handful of pitted green olives
fresh thyme


  1. Chop the onion and garlic and soften in the olive oil.
  2. Chop the courgettes and add to the pan.
  3. Use scissors to snip the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces straight into the pan.
  4. Add the rice, saffron and sherry and bubble until the liquid is reduced.
  5. Pour in the water or stock (I use half a Knorr chicken stockpot) and add the chopped thyme and the green olives.
  6. Put the lid on and leave over a low heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the chicken and the rice are cooked through.
  7. When it's cooked leave to rest for about 10 minutes. Then check the seasoning and grind over some black pepper before serving.
This makes a nice big pan full and serves four to six people.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Baking on the Edge...

I love a competition me, so imagine my joy at news of the delicious Miss English Mum's latest Big Bakeoff: Baking on the Edge baking competition with the fabulous prize of a Green and Blacks choccy hamper.

Of course I had to get my oven gloves on and have a bit of a bake. The rules are that there are no rules. Excellent. I like things to be clear from the start.

So here goes.

Entry number one:

This is a piece of the Millionaire's Shortbread I made for the Brownies' end of term party. Look at the way it is rudely sticking its little toffee tongue out at you, daring you to eat it. Cheeky thing.

Entry number two:

Coalition cake. I have previously blogged about this cake having first made it just after this year's General Election. It's basically a chocolate and vanilla marble cake, but until further notice I'm calling it Coalition Cake. 

The amount of coalition depends on the current political climate and this one, for some reason, was slightly heavy on the Conservative (represented by the rich, dark chocolate cake). The fragrant, vanilla Lib Dems are obviously not having such a good week this week. It is smothered in vanilla icing, an addition requested by my children. It  has already been on charity duties where it was declared "lush" and raised £14.50.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Bake off!

That title almost sounds rude doesn't it? But it's not, it refers to English Mum's Big Bakeoff which has the rather fabby prize of a stonking hamper from Green and Blacks.

The rules are that there are no rules, you just have to bake something and email it (a picture, not the actual thing!) to English Mum by the end of July. So I will.

Hmmm. The question is, what to cook?

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Wild strawberry and orange muffins

We had these for breakfast this morning, so I thought I'd share the recipe with you. The garden is full of wild strawberries at the moment - mostly the tiny alpine variety, but also some that are bigger fruited, ripe when pale pink with red pips and with a lovely fragrant taste.


225g (8oz) plain flour
2 tsp baking power
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
grated rind of 1 orange

100g (4oz) melted butter (or same weight of sunflower oil)
100g (4oz) caster sugar
1 large egg
the juice of the orange topped up to 125ml (4 fl oz) with milk

approx 1 big handful of wild strawberries or chopped ordinary strawberries (or other berries).

  • Combine all the dry ingredients. Whisk them with a fork to get some air into the mixture.
  • Combine all the wet ingredients, then add with the strawberries to the dry ingredients.
  • Stir briefly to make a lumpy batter, then spoon into muffin cases and bake at Gas 5 (180 deg C) for 10 to 15 minutes.

Eat while still warm!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Vegetarian sausage rolls

Today's baking has been vegetarian sausage rolls for the Brownies trip to Carew Castle tomorrow. It was all rather last minute, having only found out about the need for such things when I got back from my shopping trip yesterday but a rummage in the freezer yielded some useful ingredients.

I worry about the pig in pork sausage rolls. Which bit of the pig is one concern as all pig parts are considered edible. If the reasonably attractive bits are the ones packed into polystyrene or displayed on the butcher's counter you can be pretty sure that the unattractive bits are the ones that end up in sausage rolls. I'm pretty certain that the sausage roll is at the end of the food chain when it comes to choice of bits for the 'pork' content. If you read the ingredients of a pack of sausage rolls the actual 'pork' bit is horribly low and the definition of what actually constitutes 'pork' is worrying too.

Then there's the question of the welfare of the pig and cheap frozen supermarket pork sausage rolls aren't likely to feature even the worst bits of British pigs reared in happy conditions outside rooting about in the undergrowth. These are more likely to be their foreign counterparts reared indoors in unspeakable conditions of the sort that were banned in Britain years ago.

But there is an alternative to pork in a sausage roll role helpfully provided by Delia in her seminal Christmas book years ago. Christmas isn't Christmas without Delia's book and when I got it down from the shelf this morning it helpfully fell open on the vegetarian sausage rolls recipe.

The alternative is what is called a Glamorgan sausage - breadcrumbs, onion, Cheddar cheese and chopped fresh garden herbs mixed to a paste with milk or cream and seasoning. It behaves exactly the same as sausage meat but without the dubious content.

My hurried freezer rummage found several bags of cheesy breadcrumbs - useful freezer bounty made by whizzing left over cheese sandwiches in the food processor. This gives a handy bag of breadcrumbs for gratins and breading fish, but always label it so you don't make a cheesy apple Charlotte by mistake (although that one might actually work!) I also found a sheet of ready rolled puff pastry and there was a block of cheese in the fridge and herbs in the garden. Bingo. All it needed was a bit of mixing, roll the pastry out a little thinner, cut in half, add the long rolls of Glamorgan sausage, egg glaze, cut into slices and bake at Gas 7 until golden brown.

Hopefully acceptable for the Brownies tomorrow but also perfect for picnics. Delia's vegetarian sausage rolls are - like dogs - not just for Christmas!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

A political statement in cake form

I've been making this cake - coalition cake - since the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats became best friends after the General Election. I suppose the joke is wearing thin now and I'll have to go back to calling it plain old chocolate and vanilla marble cake but for now I like calling it coalition cake so that's what it is.

Although who is the chocolate and who is the vanilla? Perhaps Cameron is the chocolate, because he's rich (but not that dark) and Clegg is the vanilla? I don't think I have quite thought this one through but, whatever, the two mixes go together well in a tasty and satisfying way.

The recipe is your basic Madeira sponge mixture. I use Rachel Allen's recipe for her wonderful 'Bake' book, which is 225g (8oz) butter creamed with the same quantity of caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in four eggs and two teaspoons of vanilla extract and then fold in 225g (8oz) plain flour and two teaspoons of baking powder. Finally add 50ml (1.75 fl oz) milk and then put half of the mixture in spoonfuls around the prepared 20cm (8 in) cake tin. To the remaining mix add 50g (2oz) sifted cocoa powder and then dollop that into the tin with the vanilla mix.

Use a skewer or the tip of a knife to swirl the mixture around until marbled. Don't go mad - you're looking for a coalition with two distinct identities not one bland homogeneous whole. Politicians take note.

Bake at 180 degrees C (350 degrees F or gas mark 4) for 45 minutes, leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes, then turn out and leave on a wire rack until completely cold.

I like to ice mine and I use a basic vanilla butter icing. Use half and half unsalted and salted butter and use up to twice the amount of sugar than butter. I start with 100g of each (50g of each butter and 100g of sugar) then add an extra 50g of sugar if I think it needs it. Scrape the seeds out of a vanilla pod and add those too. Whip it all up with electric beaters until really fluffy and add a teaspoon of just boiled water at the end.

Smother the cold cake in the icing and serve in slices. Sadly no picture of this one. I have made it twice in recent weeks and twice it has been eaten before I have remembered to take its picture. I'll have to make it again...