Friday, 13 March 2015

Wholemeal Hot Cross Buns

All images by Guildford Photographer Matt Pereira -

Can you think of anything nicer than warm, lightly toasted fruit bread with melting salty butter? When I was a small child Easter was such an exciting time, not just for the chocolate eggs but also for the abundance of hot cross buns. Fruit bread is my weakness. My kryptonite. Even now the sight of a Little Chef brings back memories of long journeys dragging a caravan and a collie down the M1 with the occasional Toasted Teacake break, although a recent attempt to relive that memory with my husband resulted in the worst latte I've ever had in my entire life.

Presented with toasted fruit bread all will power and good intentions fade to naught and these light wholemeal hot cross buns are just the ticket to persuade me I'm actually being healthy. This Easter, whatever your plans are, make yourself a batch of these and brew a lovely pot of fresh coffee. Take 10 minutes out of your morning to sit and relax before the egg hunts start and the sugar rush kicks in.

Happy Easter.

All images by Guildford Photographer Matt Pereira -

 For the buns
  • 200g strong white flour
  • 250g strong wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 3 tsp, dried activeyeast
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100g currants
  • 50g chopped candied peel
  • 50g soft  butter
  • 150ml luke warm milk
  • 75ml luke warm water
  • 1 large egg, beaten
For the crosses:
  • 40g plain flour
  • 3 tbsp water approx
For the glaze:
  • 1 tbs caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water

  1. Pre­heat the oven to 220°C, gas mark 7.
  2. Whisk the dried active yeast together with 75ml of luke warm water and 1 tsp of the caster sugar, leave it to activate for 10 minutes. It will froth up like beer.
  3. Mix together all the flour, mixed spice, salt, caster sugar, dried fruit and mixed peel and mix it all together well. Make a well in the centre of this dry mix.
  4. Add the butter and beaten egg to the to the well and start to combine. Add the yeast mix to the dough and enough of the luke warm milk to combine into a nice soft dough. You may not need all the milk. The dough is ready when it has a nice smooth finish and the bowl is clean. Knead it for about 10 minutes. Alternatively this can also be done in a bowl mixer.
  5. Cover the bowl with lightly oiled cling film and let it rise. Leave the bowl at room temperature - it should take about 1.5 -2hrs. When it has doubled in volume it is ready.
  6. Now turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and very carefully knock back the dough by folding the sides back into the centre. Don’t be too rough here. We don’t want to lose all the air in there,
  7. Divide the mixture into twelve using a knife. Depending on how precise you wish to be you can weigh the total amount of dough and then weigh out 12 equal portions.
  8. Roll out twelve even buns and place on a lined baking sheet. Make a cross on the top of each one with a knife, cover with the lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  9. To make the crosses mix the plain flour with the water to make a thick paste, fill up a piping back and snip off a very small piping hole.
  10. When the buns are risen pipe a cross of paste on top of each one and bake for 15-20 mins in the middle of the oven.
  11. To make the glaze dissolve the sugar and water together in a small saucepan until you have a smooth syrup.
  12. Remove the buns from the oven when ready, brush lightly with the syrup and then leave the tray to cool on a rack to get the air flow beneath it.

All images by Guildford Photographer Matt Pereira -

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Gluten free chocolate and raspberry torte

This chocolate torte is light and airy and goes perfectly with a lovely cup of tea. The whisked egg whites give a glorious ganache like texture to the torte and the end result is indulgent and rich. Don't be put off by the whisking. It's a remarkably easy cake to make but you do need to remember a couple of basic principles when whisking egg whites: always use incredibly clean and dry bowls and utensils as any impurity will result in the whites not whisking quite as well. This is turn will give you a slightly heavier torte. It will still taste like heaven though!

  • 200g gluten-free dark chocolate (70% - 80% cocoa solids)
  • 50g butter
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50ml single cream
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 150g raspberries
  • 20cm spring-form tin

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
  2. Line the base of a spring-form tin with baking paper. and brush the sides with melted butter and then lightly dust with ground almonds
  3. Heat the chocolate and the butter in bain marie
  4. Whisk the yolks and the sugar together until fluffy peaks start to form.
  5. Stir the melted chocolate and butter into the egg and sugar mix and gently combine. 
  6. Stir in the single cream and the ground almonds.
  7. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form then gently fold them into the chocolate mixture a third at a time.
  8. Now fold in the raspberries, taking care not to knock too much of the air out of the mix
  9. Pour into the prepared cake tin.
  10. Bake in the oven for about 25–30 minutes. The sides should be cooked but the centre should be slightly underdone.
  11. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin before turning out. I like to sprinkly the top with a coating of sieved icing sugar and serve with a handful of raspberries and some whisked cream.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Raspberry, white chocolate and macadamia nut blondie

Most of us are familiar with the chocolate brownie. The gooey, nutty, bitesize chunks have been a firm favourite at kids parties, barbeques and round these parts as after run treats, for as long as we can remember. This little beauty is a variation of kid's favourite. It uses white chocolate instead of dark and incorporates the upmarket macadamia nut and raspberry. So it looks and sounds a little bit more adult. Don't worry though, it's still unctious and soft and just that right level of sweet to compliment your coffee. I've been known to keep a batch of these ready cut and individually wrapped in clingfilm in my freezer so that I can take one out before my run and then enjoy one with coffee once the effort is over. You don't have to freeze them of course, but with my will power it's the only way I can guarantee I won't just eat the entire tray in one sitting. The important thing to remember here is that due to it's high fat content white chocolate burns very easily. If the tray isn't cooked in the allotted time simply knock the temperature down by 10 degrees and keep it baking for a touch longer, just keep checking after 5 min intervals. Don't be tempted to turn the heat up all the top will darken very quickly.

  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g melted butter
  • 150g plain flour
  • 225g white chocolate
  • 100g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
  • 100g fresh raspberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 150C
  2. Place a bain marie on the stove and break 200g of the white chocolate into it. The chocolate will melt in the bowl as the water simmers beneath it
  3. Beat together the sugar and butter until you have a light, creamy texture
  4. Carefully beat in the eggs one by one. If the texture looks like it is starting to split you can add a tablespoon of the flour and continue to beat until all the eggs are incorporated into a smooth mixture
  5. Slowly fold in the flour until all the lumps are removed. You should now have a nice light, airy mix
  6. Mix in the white chocolate until completely incorporated
  7. If you are using a bowl mixer now remove the bowl attachment and stir the nuts, the raspberries and the remaining chocolate (roughly chopped) into the mixture so that they are evenly spread.
  8. Pour into the pre-lined 9" square pan and place into the centre of the oven for approximately 1 hour. Do a taste with a cake tester (or a thin skewer) after approx 45-50 mins.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Roast Carrot Spaghetti

I know it's Christmas and everything but this gradual weight gain has just got to stop. I've injured my foot and can't run as much as I normally do although I suspect that is going to pale into insignificance now it's December and I have eaten at least 4 mince pies a day since the first of the month.

So I've been trying to get as much veg and juice as I can, in order to fill me up with good, healthy, energy giving sustenance before the festive season really kicks off. This next recipe came to me one night as I was foolishly attempting to survive on a green juice and a handful of nuts for my evening meal. Don't do it. It's a stupid idea. I knew I had the most amazing red and gold heritage carrots from Secretts in the fridge and I was amusing my hungry brain with taste combinations.

By itself this is a beautiful vegetarian salad, packed full of vitamins and minerals. We accompanied it with a nice fresh barnsley chop.

  • 300g carrots, spiralised  Alternatively use a peeler to slice of long strips or do a fine julienne with by hand.
  • 5 beetroot, cooked, peeled and quartered
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced
  • 70g pumpkin seeds
  • 70g goats' cheese
  • Olive oil for roasting
  • Balsamic vinegar for roasting
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C, or 180C fan assisted
  2. Toss the carrot with salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil, spread on a large baking tray and roast in the oven for 20 mins
  3. At the same time toss the beetroot in balsamic vinegar with salt and pepper, spread on another tray and roast them off for 20 mins.
  4. Sauté the onion and garlic on a low heat until completely soft but not browing. This should take as long as it takes the carrot and the beetroot to soften.
  5. When everything is ready carefully mix it all together in a large bowl with the pumpkin seeds and crumbled up goat's cheese. The carrot spaghetti is delicate so be carefully not to break it up too much. Season to taste and serve.

Bakewell Tart

Bakewell or Derbyshire tart reminds me of school. I went to a tiny little infant and junior school in West Yorkshire and have very fond memories of the school dinners there. Mainly because while the majority of the food was fairly standard school canteen fayre, certain things stood out as being a cut above the rest. Bakewell tart day was always a good day and I can still remember the glee with which we'd read the blackboard as we formed our neat yet noisy little uniformed queues.  At school it was always served in little squares with a liberal helping of glutinous custard. Nowadays I prefer to make the little individual tarts and serve with a light dollop of chantilly cream or just good ol' plain double cream poured straight over the top.

I've included the recipe the pastry and the jam filling. You can of course buy these. Let's be honest, it's easier. When I first learned how to make frangipane I was amazed that something so rich and complex tasting could possibly be so easy, so basically if you buy your pastry in and use a supermarket jam, you've got yourself a quick, simple yet stunning crowd-pleaser.

For the sweet pastry
  • 250g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 100g unsalted butter (soft)
  • 2 eggs at room temp
  • 100g sifted icing sugar
For the frangipane

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 10g plain flour
For the raspberry jam
  • 250g raspberries
  • 30g caster sugar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • handful of flaked almonds for topping
  1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the icing sugar, butter and salt mix in with your finger tips, as if making a crumble. Once the flour mix is slightly grainy make a well in the middle and add the egg, working the egg into the flour until a dough begins to form. Once the dough is amalgamated knead it one or tho times, wrap in cling film and chill down for 2 hours before use.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180C and grease a 23cm tart tin or smaller individual tin. On a floured surface role out the pastry and line the required tins, cover in a paper cartouche, fill with baking beans and blind bake for 10-15 mins, or until golden brown.
  3. While this is baking make the compote by adding fruit, sugar and lemon juice to a pan and heating to a low simmer for approximately 10 minutes. The mixture should start to thicken into a loose jam consistency. Leave to cool slightly.
  4. To make the frangipane beat the sugar and the butter together in a large bowl until fluffy then add the eggs one by one and beat until the mixture is completely smooth and light. Gently fold in the ground almonds and the flour until full incorporated and devoid of lumps.
  5. When you remove the pastry from the oven carefully remove the beans and paper and check to see if the pastry looks crisp on the bottom. If not, pop it back into the oven for a couple of minutes. This will prevent sogginess. Now spread the compote across the bottom of the pastry case in an even layer. Carefully spoon the frangipane onto the jam layer, using a wide knife to completely cover it, taking care not to mix it in too much. Once you have a nice even top of frangipane pop it back into the oven and bake on 180C for 20 mins. You can tell when it's ready as it will start to rise in the middle. Sprinkle the top with the almonds and return to the oven for a final 5 minutes then cool on a rack. Do not remove from the tart case until it is completely cool. Once the tart is completely cool you can trim the pastry with a sharp knife.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Sous vide by Victoria Glass

A couple of years ago my friend and fellow caterer gave herself the mammoth task of cooking the entire alphabet over the course of 12 months. Each supper club had a designated letter and every fortnight Vic and her partner invited a varied selection of like-minded gluttons into their home for bacchanalian feasts that sometimes had as many as 13 courses. Let's just say she likes to cook. She likes to feed people. She likes people to be happy.

So when I received an email stating that she was cooking an entire meal in the sous vide and would I like to attend I pretty much cleared my diary. As a chef I've cooked in a sous vide before but it's honestly not an instrument I've used a lot. Each item is carefully vacuum packed or wrapped and then submerged into the water bath to be cooked at a very precise temperature. The results are astounding. Vegetables taste as vibrant and fresh as if they were raw, meat cooks evenly from end to end and turns into an almost butter like texture, and the texture of fish changes completely until you get an almost cevicche texture with a piercing fresh flavour..

Now I'm going to be honest here, while I love the flavours and textures produced by the sous vide this is not a method of cooking that is ideal for the home due to a certain level of hassle.  As mentioned there's the wrapping and you still have to seal/brown the meat if you want it to have that lovely crisp texture on the outside. I think if you were cooking one element in the machine for a dinner party it would be fine, but the challenge here was to cook everything. And this led to time constraints that wouldn't be necessary under less contrived circumstances. That was fine for us guests through, we all got on famously and we had plenty of wine to get through and even had some indoor fireworks to play with, what with it being bonfire weekend.

It was a Sunday Lunch. Naturally I got home just before midnight!

The menu was divine.  Our hostess is a heavenly cook, and can match flavours better than anyone I know. She really outdid herself here. I think if there was any weak element for me it would be the starter, a game bird terrine that somehow lacked the coherent textures I was expecting. The ham that was used to line the terrine still retained an oddly raw texture as a result of the sous vide procedure. The flavours however were delicious.

The main course is where the fireworks really started. The most succulent piece of pork belly I've ever tasted was served with a toffee apple, liquid smoke fondant potato, smoked garlic and pumpkin puree and kale. All lightly covered with a pork and port gravy that looked like velvet and tasted like ambrosia.

And the finale? Well I'm just going to describe it you. I think the ingredients say it all. Bonfire toffee, rum and ginger creme caramel using the sous vide machine as a precise bain marie. Creme caramel is my favourite dessert in the world, and since I've now shamelessly stolen her recipe this is the one I shall make forever more.

Sous Vide Bonfire Menu

Milli Taylor's spinach, fennel and cumin ricotta cakes 
from her new book, Party-perfect Bites.

Game Bird Terrine: pheasant, pigeon, partridge and guinea fowl 
(Apparently James I couldn't be contacted immediately about 
the gunpowder plot because he was off on a shoot!)

Pork belly served with toffee apple, liquid smoke fondant potato, 
smoked garlic and pumpkin puree, kale and pork and port gravy

Bonfire toffee, rum and ginger creme caramel

Milli's lovely spinach, fennel and cumin ricotta cakes.
Served with a glass of sparkly, naturally.
Game bird terrine

Pork belly served with toffee apple, liquid smoke fondant potato,
smoked garlic and pumpkin puree,
kale and pork and port gravy

Bonfire toffee, rum and ginger creme caramel
with dessert wine

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Perk up juice

I used to juice regularly but I somehow got out of the habit. I think I just got into blended smoothies a little more. But right now I'm trying to be as healthy as I can so I've gone back to using my juicer as a snack machine. By this I simply mean that I eat as healthier as I can across every single meal but rather than reaching for carb based snacks I'll opt of a juice. 

They are of course naturally very high in sugar so you have to be careful of your intake, but as an alternative to a couple of slices of toast, a cliff bar or (heaven forfend) a snickers, these are a great way of staving off your hunger with something sweet between meals at the same time as counting towards your 5-10 a day.

My afternoon pick me up tends to be this juice. The beetroot and apple add vitamin C, among other things, while the lettuce and celery bring an abundance of dietary fibre and also Vitamins A,C and K. The beetroot and apple lends a sweetness that stave off my chocolate cravings but the earthy flavour of the lettuce and celery balance it out so after you've drunk it you almost feel like you've had a meal. 

I love this juice.

  • 1 x juicer
  • 1 x glass
  • 1 x beetroot
  • 1 x apple
  • 1 x stick celery
  • 1 x romaine heart 

  1. Juice
  2. Pour
  3. Drink

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

All hail kale!

I'm having a bit of a love affair with kale at the moment. Those lovely thick, springy leaves offer so much in terms of health benefits, packed as they are with vitamins A, K and C, calcium, not to mention folic acid, magnesium and iron. And it's virtually fat free with a very low calorific content.

It's a powerhouse of a vegetable, it comes in many different forms, (curly, plain leaf, cavolo negro, purple, or spear) but the humble winter harvested brassica still has a bit of a bad rep. Despite all this good stuff it's too often associated with soggy, waterlogged leaves served in the deepest of winters, when everything else has given up the ghost. 

Such a shame, as it's just so versatile. Recently I've been using it raw in smoothies, or lightly blanched in salads but it can also be fried up all crispy with pork (think crispy seaweed), served with cream as a side dish, or added to dishes such as fish cakes, pies, risottos, curries, or omelettes. The irony tang goes exceptionally well with fish, bacon, goat's cheese, and pine nuts. 

This light salad is so quick and easy to prepare. I regularly roast a couple of chicken breasts to have with it or crisp up some pancetta to run through the salad. The dressing I use here is a very simple mix of shop bought mayonnaise, with a dash of white wine vinegar and sugar. It's also delicious with a homemade french vinaigrette or a caesar dressing. I'm a firm believer that there is a time and a place for hand made mayonnaise but a mid week, quick lunch is not one of them.

Cavolo negro, black bean and pine nut salad
  • 400g roughly shredded cavolo negro leaves
  • 150g black beans (ready to use not dry)
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 stick celery, finely diced
  • 1 inch or cucumber, finely sliced
For the dressing
  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped dill

  1. Blanch the shredded kale in boiling water for approximately 5 minutes (until it has an al dente bite), drain and immediately plunge into ice cold water to stop it from cooking further. Then drain and squeeze any excess water out of the leaves.
  2. In a clean jam jar add all your dressing ingredients, screw on the lid and mix well by shaking the jar.
  3. Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl with the dressing.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Yorkshire parkin

It's Autumn, the leaves are falling, the smell of burning wood is in the air and you need some warming tlc. As a Yorkshirewoman this next recipe is very close to my heart. I remember eating it on a cold damp Bonfire Night. Tucking into it with a cup of tea at my Grandma's house, as a school dessert with custard and just as a general treat. But almost exclusively in November.

There are many different recipes around for this traditional cake. Some contain oats, some contain treacle. There's another recipe on this very blog for a parkin biscuit that is traditional in Yorkshire, but in other parts of the country might be referred to as ginger bread or ginger biscuit.

This is my Grandma's recipe that I've tweaked here and there over the years (sorry Grandma). I like to make this in a loaf and then use it as a treat after long runs through the hills. The fabulous thing about it is that it matures with age so you don't have to worry about eating it all within 2 days. Perfect if there isn't a huge family waiting to swarm over it the minute it is out of the oven. Just wrap it in greaseproof paper once it's cold and you'll find that after 3-4 days you have a lovely sticky ginger cake that acts as the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.
  • 220g/8oz self raising flour
  • 220g/8oz pale muscovado sugar
  • 85g/3oz unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 200ml/7fl oz milk
  • 60g/2oz golden syrup
  • 60g/2oz black treacle
  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Line a 2lb loaf tin
  2. Sift the flour, ginger, salt and bicarb into a large bowl
  3. Melt the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle in a small pan
  4. Beat the egg and milk together
  5. Pour the melted butter and syrup into the dry ingredients and slowly combine until smooth and thick
  6. Gently stir in the milk and egg mixture and pour the fully combined batter into the lined tin
  7. Bake for 1 hour or until the cake skewer is clean

Monday, 13 October 2014

Courgette, lemongrass and coconut soup

Back in September you may remember I had rather a lot of courgettes, thanks to the generosity of a close friend. Well, basically she waltzed off on holiday and promised em free veg in return for picking her allotment while she was away. Win! This beautiful creamy soup is a fabulous way of cooking courgettes. It's certainly not authentic thai but the fragrant lemongrass and coconut adds a lovely south east Asian taste. I serve it with lightly fried strips of very spicy red peppers but it's fair to say I do like my food to have a nice healthy kick. It's just as nice with a hunk of bread or lightly sautéed strips of fresh courgette to add texture.

I got this recipe originally from my old head chef and it's fair to say he'd be utterly mortified about the addition of coconut milk. But hey, my adaptation, The fact that it is coconut milk means that despite the extreme creamy texture it's also vegan and non-dairy.

  • 500g courgette, roughly chopped
  • 200g runner beans, roughly chopped
  • 3 sticks lemon grass, roughly chopped
  • 400g can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1tblsp ground nut oil
  • salt to taste
  1. In a large deep pan sauté the courgettes, lemongrass and runner beans until softened and just starting to turn golden
  2. Add the whole can of coconut milk to the pan, mix in and then lightly simmer on a low heat for approximately 15-20 mins until the vegetables are completely soft. Leave to cool for 10-15 mins then blitz (in either a jug liquidiser or food processor) until completely smooth
  3. Pass the smooth liquid through a fine sieve to get rid of any fibrous and woody bits of lemon grass then bring to a slow simmer on a low heat. Serve as desired.